1. The book begins as Susannah wakes up screaming. At this
point, we have no idea why. What do we find out about her inner
life as the book progresses?
2. What role do dreams play in the book? Reference the recurring
image on pages 64-65 of being "in a white car traveling along a
3. On page 16, Susannah devises a way to walk all the way
through a student pub without "feeling like an idiot." She seems
self-conscious and insecure. Does she become more confident as the
story continues? If so, why?
4. How do Jason and Rob fulfill different needs for
5. Compare the university environment in which Susannah studies
with the company she keeps outside of school. Specifically, compare
the party at Rob's house on page 26 with the scene in the London
bar on page 47. Does social class play a role? Or is it age? Does
Susannah seem comfortable in either setting?
6. On page 42, a tarot card reader on the train deals Susannah
an illustrated card of a jester with the words The Fool written on
the bottom. What does this suggest about Susannah and her
7. Susannah doesn't divulge too much about her family. Discuss
what you know about her father, her mother, and her hometown.
8. Do you think the death of Susannah's father subconsciously
influences her decisions as regards her love life?
9. How does Susannah view the different settings of her life:
the student housing on campus, Jason's flat in London, her mother's
home in Swansea?
10. What do you make of Jason's reaction to her pregnancy? Do
you think his rejection of her is forgivable? Compare this with
11. What roles do Susannah's friends Cassie and Fiona play in
12. "Susannah turns to the great male philosophers for guidance,
in the absence of help from her parents and teachers." Is this
statement true, do you think?
13. The part titles of the book mimic the curriculum for an
introductory philosophy course. What do you think of this
14. Nietzsche is discussed in the first section, under "Short
Loan," implying that his philosophy is not very useful; Heidegger
under "Reference" (more useful); and Kierkegaard under "Long Loan"
(very useful). Do you agree?
15. What does Susannah learn from her discussion with Søren
16. Do you think Susannah makes the right decision in the end?
Is there a right decision?
17. This novel takes place in 1974. Do you think attitudes have
changed since this time?
18. The story is set in a seaside town in Britain. Do the
characters behave differently than how they would in the U.S.?
19. Is philosophy useful for making life decisions? Would
Susannah have done better to visit a student counselor?
20. Did you learn anything about philosophy from reading this
21. In the first part of the novel, Susannah reads about
Nietzsche's idea of the "free spirit" (pp. 20-23). What is her
initial response to this idea? How does her view change, and why
22. The book is set at a period when philosophers such as Thomas
Kuhn and Paul Feyerabend were making claims that science proceeds
in an irrational way (pp. 39-42, 55-56.) Do you think there is any
truth to these claims?
23. How does Susannah attempt to explain Heidegger's notion of
"being in the world" in the context of Western philosophy (p.
24. Susannah sees her pregnant state as being an embodiment of
Heidegger's idea that there is "really no difference between
subject and object" (pp. 214-8). Is her argument is persuasive?
25. In Susannah's tutorial, she, Belham, and Rob discuss
Kierkegaard's "leap of faith" (pp. 185-6). How is this relevant to
the dilemma she is facing in her personal life?
26. Susannah sees a connection between the biblical story of
Abraham and Isaac in Kierkegaard's Fear and Trembling and the issue
of abortion (pp. 205-213, 239-241). Is this a valid way of looking
at Fear and Trembling?
27. What does Susannah learn from her conversation with Søren
Kierkegaard in chapter 24?
28. Do you think Kierkegaard would have regarded Susannah's
ultimate decision as a moral one?
29. By the end of the book, how useful has Susannah found the
teachings of Nietzsche, Heidegger, and Kierkegaard,
30. In your view, can philosophy help us make important
decisions in our daily lives?