1. What interesting and complex narrative effects result from
Maud's difficulty with her memory? How does the narrative shift
between past and present affect the telling of the story?
2. What is the difference between something or someone being
missing, lost, or gone? How does Maud struggle with these
3. What do you think prompts Maud's repeated impulse to buy and
consume food? Why the focus on tins of peaches? Why is this impulse
a concern for her daughter and carers?
4. To compensate for her gaps in memory, Maud relies on her
"paper memory" and leaves herself notes as reminders. In what ways
do the paper notes mimic her own scattered memory? What problems
arise from this system?
5. After her sister Sukey goes missing, young Maud impulsively
collects random, found objects because she "couldn't bear to walk
past something that might be Sukey's and not pick it up." What
meaning does Maud invest in these physical objects? What role do
some key objects play in unraveling the mystery of Sukey's
6. In the present, as Maud's memory fails her more frequently
and her grasp on language deteriorates, increasingly she finds
comfort in physical objects: a silk glasses case from Elizabeth,
Sukey's compact case, and Patrick's clothes to name a few. How do
these objects help her piece together both the present and the
7. Maud starts making mistakes while performing simple household
tasks. When this happens in front of others she feels as though
she's "failed an important test" and thinks "a little piece of me
is gone." What do you think she means by this? Why is this change
significant to her?
8. Maud often compares the confusion caused by her failing
memory with the post-war experiences in her childhood: being
disoriented in her own neighbourhood, worrying about missing and
disappeared friends, and the sense of being without food all echo
back to this period. How do these two different scenarios of
upheaval create such a similar effect on her life? How do they
9. The phrase "Elizabeth is missing" is constantly echoed by
Maud throughout the novel as she struggles to discover (and
remember) what's happened to her friend. Why do you think Maud
finds familiarity and relief in this phrase?
10. As a girl, Maud is discouraged from mentioning Sukey's name
at home and finds solace in discussing her sister with Frank who
"wanted to remember her properly, with words." Given Maud's later
difficulty with words, how does she find ways to search for and
remember her sister?
11. Maud is often misunderstood, disregarded, and treated with
impatience by the people in her town because of her difficulty with
memory. Consider how this is similar to the town's treatment of the
mad woman, Violet, of Maud's childhood. How does this behavior
affect both women? And what does it mean that this behavior
persists in both time periods?
12. Maud frequently repeats words to herself to help her
remember things, but admits that "the words begin to lose meaning
and are like a chant." How does this difficulty render the mundane
and familiar strange? How does this type of everyday mystery add to
13. Against Sukey's wishes, Frank keeps a glass dome filled with
stuffed birds on the mantelpiece in their home. What is the
significance of this display, and why do you think it inspires
Sukey's premonitory terror about being attacked? Why does Frank
insist on keeping it?
14. There are several allusions and references to fairy tales
throughout the novel and Maud seems to unconsciously takes cues
from these stories when she is feeling confused: for example, she
imagines herself as Little Red Riding Hood's grandmother, waiting
for visitors in her home. What other stories are referenced? How do
you think they help Maud?
15. Maud often finds herself digging in gardens, searching with
a sense of purpose, but unable to remember why and what for. Why
does she revert to this type of physical search?
16. Helen takes on much of the responsibility of caring for her
mother and has a difficult, often frustrating relationship with
Maud. How does Maud's relationship with her granddaughter Katy
differ? How does this dynamic influence our understanding of Helen
and Maud's relationship?
17. Frank and Douglas are two key figures in the disappearance
of Sukey and, as a child, Maud deeply mistrusts them both. However,
we discover that both are kind towards others in their own way. How
does the resolution to Sukey's disappearance affect your
impressions of these characters?
18. What, if anything, has changed for Maud in the story's