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Islington Branch Book Club - Past Titles: "New Boy" by Tracy Chevalier

Take a look through previous titles we've discussed at our Islington Branch Book Club

"New Boy" by Tracy Chevalier

  1. Adaptation of "Othello":

    • Discuss the ways in which Chevalier adapts and modernizes Shakespeare's "Othello" in "New Boy." How does the setting of a 1970s schoolyard in Washington, D.C. influence the themes and characters of the story?
  2. Race and Prejudice:

    • Race plays a central role in both "Othello" and "New Boy." Analyze how race and racial prejudice are depicted in Chevalier's novel. How do the characters' racial identities impact their relationships and interactions?
  3. Character Analysis:

    • Explore the characters of Osei (Othello), Dee (Desdemona), Ian (Iago), and others. How do their personalities, backgrounds, and motivations compare to their counterparts in Shakespeare's play?
  4. Bullying and Power Dynamics:

    • Bullying and power dynamics are prominent themes in "New Boy." Discuss instances of bullying in the novel and how they relate to broader themes of jealousy, manipulation, and betrayal.
  5. Friendship and Betrayal:

    • The friendship between Osei and Dee forms a central part of the story. How does their friendship develop, and how is it affected by the actions of other characters, particularly Ian?
  6. Narrative Structure and Point of View:

    • "New Boy" alternates between different characters' perspectives. How does Chevalier use this narrative structure to provide insights into the characters' motivations and emotions?
  7. Setting and Atmosphere:

    • How does the 1970s schoolyard setting contribute to the atmosphere of the novel? Discuss the cultural and historical context of the time period and its impact on the characters' experiences.
  8. Symbolism and Imagery:

    • Analyze the symbolism and imagery used throughout the novel. For example, consider the significance of the schoolyard as a microcosm of society and the playground equipment as symbols of power and hierarchy.
  9. Conflict Resolution:

    • Reflect on the resolution of conflicts in "New Boy." How does Chevalier conclude the story, and what does the resolution suggest about the characters' growth and the consequences of their actions?
  10. Themes of Innocence and Corruption:

    • Discuss the themes of innocence and corruption in the novel. How do the characters' experiences in the schoolyard shape their perceptions of the world and their own moral compasses?
  11. Emotional Impact:

    • Reflect on the emotional impact of the story. How did you feel while reading "New Boy," and how did the novel's themes and characters resonate with you?
  12. Relevance to Contemporary Issues:

    • Consider the relevance of the themes explored in "New Boy" to contemporary society. How do issues of race, prejudice, bullying, and power dynamics depicted in the novel relate to current events and societal debates?

Tracy Chevalier is an American-British historical novelist born on October 19, 1962, in Washington, D.C., United States. She was raised in Washington, D.C., and later moved to England, where she has spent most of her adult life.

Chevalier attended Oberlin College in Ohio, where she studied English literature and minored in French. After graduating, she moved to England to pursue a Master's degree in creative writing at the University of East Anglia.

Chevalier's literary career took off with the publication of her second novel, "Girl with a Pearl Earring," in 1999. The novel, set in 17th-century Delft, Netherlands, imagines the story behind Johannes Vermeer's famous painting of the same name. "Girl with a Pearl Earring" was a critical and commercial success, receiving numerous awards and nominations, including the Barnes & Noble Discover Award and the British Book Awards Book of the Year.

Following the success of "Girl with a Pearl Earring," Chevalier continued to write historical novels that explore the lives of women and marginalized individuals in different historical periods. Some of her notable works include:

  • "The Lady and the Unicorn" (2003), which explores the creation of the famous medieval tapestry cycle of the same name.
  • "Burning Bright" (2007), set in 18th-century London and inspired by the works of William Blake.
  • "Remarkable Creatures" (2009), which tells the story of Mary Anning, a pioneering fossil hunter in early 19th-century England.
  • "The Last Runaway" (2013), set in 19th-century Ohio and following the journey of a young Quaker woman involved in the Underground Railroad.

Chevalier's novels are known for their meticulous research, vivid historical settings, and engaging narratives that bring to life the stories of ordinary people living in extraordinary times. Her writing often focuses on themes of art, gender, class, and the human experience.

In addition to her novels, Chevalier has written essays, short stories, and edited anthologies. She is also involved in various literary initiatives and has served as a judge for literary prizes such as the Orange Prize for Fiction and the Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize.

Tracy Chevalier continues to write and is regarded as one of the leading historical novelists of her generation, with her works translated into numerous languages and adapted for film and television. She currently lives in London with her husband and son.


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