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Discussion Questions for

JACK THE RIPPER IN ST. LOUIS

by Fedora AMIS

 

What to wear: The one item in your wardrobe that says “Victorian” better than any other.
What to drink: Cider--hot or cold.
What to serve: Molasses popcorn balls and/or sugar cookies.

1. Grandma’s strange behavior sets events in motion. If you were in Jemmy’s place, would you react as she did to becoming Grandma’s keeper? 

2. Did you ever want to live in 1897? Do you still want to after reading Jack the Ripper in St. Louis?

3. How does Jemmy see herself? Is having a career desirable for a girl in her position? In the 19th century, women who wanted careers instead of families were considered unnatural. Does that attitude still hold true today?

4. How do you view Jemmy’s relationship with her mother, the widow Mrs. Belinda McBustle? Why does Jemmy hide her hopes and dreams as well as her actions from her mother?

5. Relationships are important in Jack the Ripper in St. Louis. How do you view the relationships between mothers and daughters, between men and women? Are they different in our own times?

6. What is Jemmy’s attitude toward men? Do these views change during the course of the book? Why or why not?

7. Which of the mature ladies do you believe to be most representative of the 19th century--Jemmy’s mother, Jemmy’s Aunt Delilah McBustle, Annie, Nanny or Grandma McBustle?

8. What about the “serial virgin”? Do you have any sympathy for her?

9. After Jemmy’s father died and her mother opened their home to boarders, Jemmy had to learn to do physical work. Has that strengthened her character as well as her muscles? Would she have been the same daring Jemmy if her father had lived?

10. Trappings of 19th century life--jewelry and hats--take on added meaning in Jack the Ripper in St. Louis. What do hats mean to Annie?  to Jemmy?  Is the Peacock ring more than just a clue?

11. Funerals form a central theme. Did any of the funeral customs surprise you? Were the elaborate funerals of yesteryear more effective at helping mourners cope with their grief than modern ones?

12. When Jemmy’s plans are thwarted, she either runs away or takes a “wait and watch” approach. Why? Would different actions have worked better?

13. Do you think some victims invite trouble? Why would anyone engage in self-destructive behavior?

14. In life, some events turn out to be very different from our original hopes and plans. Could the embarrassment at the pageant have been avoided?  How?

15. Questions of money and social expectations run through this novel. The Erwin McBustles are rich. Despite her unseemly line of work, Mrs. Nanny holds middle class values. Are these characters typical of people who live and work today?

Fedora Outline

 

If your bookclub would like autographed bookplates, just pop an E-Mail with the number you want to Fedora@fedoraamis.com

 

Jack the Ripper
Fedora Outline

Ripperology 101

If your book club is within the Greater St. Louis area, I'd be pleased to come for a visit. If your location is elsewhere, invite me for a call-in. Many bookstores and libraries can accomodate a phone-in. Some can even supply video conferencing. I'd love to answer your questions live and in person.