Book Club Guide

Author available to be part of your club!

If you're interested in arranging to have Matthew Pearl be a part of your book club meeting via speakerphone, email here.

Some discussion points for your book club about The Last Dickens: (click here for a printer-friendly text version and here for a pdf file of the Readers' Guide from the U.S. paperback which includes an "interview" by James R. Osgood of Matthew Pearl)

... In the novel, there is a stalker who shadows Charles Dickens's reading tour around in America, based on actual incidents that happened to Dickens. Think of some modern examples of celebrity stalking and discuss the unique characteristics of this type of obsession in and out of this novel.

... James Osgood must find more about The Mystery of Edwin Drood to try to save his struggling publishing firm. Do you believe Osgood has additional motivations, whether personal or professional, for his quest?

... The character of Rebecca Sand is a young working woman in Boston in the latter half of the nineteenth century. What are some of the interesting and surprising challenges facing her in that situation that struck you? Do you think she is properly appreciated by Osgood and the firm?

... Dickens's death in 1870 and the incomplete status of his final novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, is at the heart of this novel's story. For those who have read Drood before, how did your knowledge of that novel influence your reading of The Last Dickens? For those who haven't read Drood, what did you learn about that final Dickens novel, and would you go out and read Drood now? Consider choosing Drood for your reading group or class and debate how it was to end or even “write” new endings.

... (follow up) The Last Dickens refers to the last novel Charles Dickens wrote. Does the title have any other meaning or significance to you? If Fields, Osgood & Co. were publishing Matthew's novel, and called you into their offices at 124 Tremont Street demanding a title change, what might you suggest? (Check out the trivia page for some of the titles considered for the novel.)

... (follow up 2) There is much consternation and excitement over The Mystery of Edwin Drood's incomplete status among the characters in this novel, propelling various actions. Other books by famous authors that were never finished include The Aeneid by Virgil, The Last Tycoon by F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Buccaneers by Edith Wharton, A Movable Feast by Ernest Hemingway, Septimus Felton by Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Lesley Castle by Jane Austen. Some of these have undergone attempts to be “completed” by other writers or family members, as some of the characters in The Last Dickens wish to do with Drood. Should unfinished books like Drood have new endings written, or be left as fragments?

... The novel's depiction of Charles Dickens is based closely on history. What are some of the facts of Dickens's life that most interested you that you may not have known before?

... The novel depicts a dramatically different period in the publishing world. What were some of the things that surprised you to see how books and publishing operated in the nineteenth century?

... (follow up) In our age of increasingly digital media, how relevant are books and publishing today? Discuss whether there will—and should—be a time where physical books no longer exist. What would be the implications of this?


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