As part of Bas Bleu’s 2016 Book a Month program, each month we’re offering discussion questions, author interviews, or other bonus material about our Bluestocking BAM selection to enrich your reading experience—for book clubs as well as thoughtful individuals. (We’ll do our best to avoid plot spoilers, but you should proceed with caution!)
In life we have two families: the one we’re born into and the one we build through friendships. This month’s Book a Month selection—And Then Came Paulette by Barbara Constantine—is a novel about that second kind of family, one that grows around a widower battling loneliness and old age in a small French village. The tale is funny and tender and sometimes sad, but most of all it’s about the importance of human connection, of those we choose to love in spite of (or in some instances, because of) their foibles and eccentricities. We’re warning you now: This novel will make your heart warm along with the June weather!
- Ferdinand’s biological family undergoes significant changes over the course of the novel, the first of which—moving away from the farm—paves the way for the establishment of Ferdinand’s second, non-biological family. In what other ways do Ferdinand, his son, grandsons, and daughter-in-law evoke change in one another’s lives?
- Many of the characters in And Then Came Paulette have been impacted by grief. In what way does that grief shape their lives? Think of a time when grief has had a permanent or long-term effect on your life; was it a positive or negative effect?
- In the not-so-distant past, multiple generations of families lived together, pooling their resources and caring for one another. Today we generally only hear about such situations when they involve illness, dementia, or an adult child who can’t find a job. Why do you think American culture moved away from this style of familial communal living? Would you ever consider it? What are the pros and cons of several generations living together under one roof, or even just in the same neighborhood?
- Though he’s gruff and curmudgeonly at times, Ferdinand repeatedly reaches out to others in need. If you set out to live a more generous life, what would that look like to you? What choices would you make? What things would you do differently? Who is the first person in need you would reach out to?
- It’s natural for humans to fear death and the physical limitations brought on by age. But what are some of the other fears you harbor about aging? Are there any aspects of advanced age that you’re looking forward to? How do Ferdinand and his friends challenge—or even upend—common assumptions about aging and the elderly?