A Thousand Paper Birds: Reading Group Guide
Questions for discussion:
- Why do you think the author chose to set the majority of the novel within Kew Gardens? How does Kew impact both the characters and the story?
- ‘All neurotic behaviour is a substitute for grief’ – what is it that each character is grieving and how do they overcome this, if at all?
- In Japanese tradition, it was believed that if you folded a thousand origami cranes, your wish would be granted. How does the motif of origami explore the themes in the novel? In what ways does the structure of the book echo the folds of origami?
- While there are certain characteristics of Audrey that are consistent, for instance her smile, she is described differently by Jonah, Harry, Chloe and Milly. Who has the most accurate view of Audrey?
- Milly is the only child in the book. How does she impact the adults? What does she teach them?
- ‘She mourns the stillbirth of anything that craves to be born.’ How does the author juxtapose the abundant creativity of nature with the characters’ attempts to create? How do the characters nurture or damage their creativity and what challenges, creatively, do Kew and the characters face?
- ‘Anything true is a memory.’ How does the author’s play on time and memory affect the reader’s opinions? Did your opinion of characters change over the course of the book and how?
- Harry keeps an image of a falling woman, suspended in the air, and asks Milly why she stays ‘earthbound’ – what does this say about his own state?
- ‘Loving you is like learning a foreign language.’ How does intimacy differ between characters in their various pairings?
- Harry first met Audrey after he pulled her back from an approaching car. After they kiss, he says that the kiss was a ‘death wish’. Would Audrey have died if she hadn’t first been ‘saved’?
- All the characters are linked by their association to Audrey, but who or what would you argue is the story really about?