1. In what ways are Carrie and Evadne’s personalities and lives shaped by their respective fathers’ social backgrounds?

2. Does Ralph truly love Carrie?

3. What is it like to to live in a close-knit community like Wilton Lane? By what standards do its inhabitants judge one another?

4. Is Evadne wrong to want to return to the upper middle class life of her childhood? What longings is she trying to fulfil?

5. Why did Letty start a relationship with Billy? Should Carrie have told her the truth about Billy?

6. Compare Carrie and Evadne as daughters.

7. Who comes between Carrie and Letty more – Ralph or Billy? Or Carrie’s conscience?

8. Joseph’s death was accidental, so Ralph isn’t legally or literally a murderer; but is he morally a murderer?

9. Adam tells Carrie that “mind-horror” (shell-shock) will not be understood in their lifetimes. Is battle fatigue/PTSD understood today?

10. What is your answer to Ralph’s question: when does infidelity start? When you are attracted to another person or when you act upon those feelings?





1. To what extent is this a story of keeping up appearances?

2. What was Nell looking for when she married Stan?

3. After she visited Vicarage Lane, should Nell have given Stan a second chance? Why doesn’t she?

4. How does Edmund control Hilda and Leonie? Why do they let him?

5. Who was the injured party: Jim or Roberta?

6. Was Nell right to tell the children their father was dead?

7. Compare the two older women in the book: Olive and Leonie. What are their strengths and weaknesses? What kind of mothers/mothers-in-law are they?

8. This is the first time Susanna Bavin has made a child a viewpoint character. Has she done it successfully? What does Posy’s viewpoint add to the story?

9. In the world of Finney Lane and Wilton Lane, in what ways do the women support one another?

10. An American reviewer called A Respectable Woman “a grippingly creepy thriller.” What do you make of this assessment?





1. Rosie, Adeline and Mr Nugent: who has the deepest effect on Juliet’s life?

2. What is it like for Juliet watching Archie grow up?

3. Is Verity Forbes a woman ahead of her time?

4. Would Agnes have had a better life if she had stayed in Manchester and worked towards being the mademoiselle of her own salon? Does she have the temperament to achieve such success?

5. Compare Adeline, Agnes and Juliet as mothers.

6. To what extent, if any, can Adeline be held responsible for Clara’s lies about being Mademoiselle Antoinette?

7. One reviewer said, “I think plucky, courageous Juliet might just be my favourite of Susanna’s leading ladies (and I don’t say that lightly).” Do you find Juliet an appealing character? Why?

8. William (the real one) and Hal: which do you prefer? Why?

9. Would Juliet have been as successful at setting up her business without Cecily by her side?

10. To what extent is Rosie driven by family feeling?





1. Compare Nathaniel and Charlie. What does Mary see in each of them?

2. Compare Evie’s hunger-strike with Mary’s. Was Mary “playing” at being on hunger-strike?

3. Has Lady Kimber had a better life through not having married Greg Rawley?

4. Helen Rawley was “left to” her brother in their father’s will. What effect has this had on her life and her personality?

5. Is Sir Edward a better father to Eleanor than John Maitland is to Mary?

6. In what ways is Granny the skeleton in the family cupboard? If she had behaved better, would the Kimbers have accepted her?

7. Who looks down more on the Maitlands – the Kimbers or their servants?

8. Does Mary ever achieve independence?

9. If Charlie and Mary had lived somewhere other than Ees House, would their marriage have survived?

10. Compare Imogen and Evangeline. What effect did they each have on Nathaniel’s life and outlook?





1. In what ways does living with the Mrs Sloans make Belinda’s life easier? In what ways does it make it more difficult?

2. Does Belinda spend too much time trying to please other people? Why does it so matter so much to her to do the right thing?

3. Why is Belinda attracted to Richard?

4. What do you think of the use of the first person, present tense for Gabriel’s viewpoint scenes?

5. Prudence says the house in Wilton Close is morally hers and Patience’s, even if it isn’t legally. Is she right?

6. How has life with Pa affected Prudence and Patience?

7. Did your opinion of Richard change when he had his first viewpoint scene and you shared his thoughts and memories for the first time? In what way?

8. In the story, is it better to be a wife, a widow or a spinster?

9. What are Prudence’s and Patience's strengths and weaknesses?

10. Who is more manipulative – Denby or Kathleen?



If you have read The Sewing Room Girl, compare the young William Turton with the middle-aged William. How has he changed with age?





1. Do you think Molly is happy at the start of the book? Does Molly think she is happy? What compromises has she had to make?

2. Why is Norris generally seen as good husband material? How do you think Norris views himself? How does he view Molly and their relationship?

3. In the first book, Patience Hesketh was a viewpoint character, ie part of the story was seen through her eyes and her experiences. What difference does it make to this book to have Prudence Hesketh as a viewpoint character? Has it changed your opinion of Prudence?

4. If you have read the first book, what was your opinion of Lawrence Hesketh then? What have you learned about him in this book through what happens to Lucy?

5. What do Vivienne and Molly see in one another that makes them become friends?

6. Is Molly right to take Danny to Southport to see his dad? Why/why not? Is Mrs Rostron right to dismiss her?

7. After living under his brother Thad’s thumb, is it inevitable that Jacob won’t get free of Shirl? Is Jacob a natural victim or is he just unlucky?

8. How does the bond grow between Danny and Aaron?

9. In what ways is the theme of ‘family’ explored in the story?

10. In what ways is the theme of ‘independence’ explored?

Christmas with the Surplus Girls



1. What are your first impressions of Nancy? How does she see herself?

2. What are Nancy’s strengths and weaknesses in her various places of work?

3. How does Prudence’s relationship with Vivienne develop in the course of the story? What does Prudence learn about herself because of it?

4. What sort of person is Zachary? How does the memory of his twin brother affect him?

5. Compare Prudence Hesketh with Mrs Rostron.

6. In what ways does Nancy display strength during the story?

7. How Christmassy is the book?

8. The Miss Heskeths are from the respectable, educated middle class, but they have little money. How does this affect their way of life?

9. In what ways is the theme of ‘family’ explored in the story?

10. Which character do you like the least/the most? Why?

New Beginnings for the Surplus Girls


1. Jess sees herself as a career woman, not a surplus girl. How does this affect her life and the choices she makes?

2. How does Jess appear to others in the story?

3. How does Tom appear to others? In what ways does this differ from his thoughts about himself?

4. What are the dynamics of the relationship between Jess and her father? What difference does Mrs Nolan make?

5. What are Vivienne’s strengths and weaknesses?

6. Does Prudence need Patience? Why/not?

7. If you have read all four books, discuss character development across the series. Who has changed the most? Learned the most? Become more likeable?

8. Is what becomes of the house in Wilton Close at the end satisfying to you as a reader? Why/not?

9. In what ways is the theme of ‘friendship’ explored in the story?

10. Characters from the previous books appear near the end. Do you enjoy catching up with old characters?

11. If you have read all four books, Which heroine did you like best – Belinda, Molly, Nancy or Jess? Why? And which hero – Gabriel, Aaron, Zachary or Tom?