As our final instalment of coverage of The Sanatorium, Paul Burke has prepared a set of questions for book clubs (SPOILER ALTERT).

Readers group questions

  1. What are your first impressions of Elin as she arrives at the hotel? How would you describe her state of mind? What did you make of her relationship with Will?
  2. Elin is very apprehensive of meeting her brother Isaac, when they do meet its fraught and edgy. How would you describe their relationship. We hear most of the story from Elin’s perspective but do we trust her judgements of Isaac? How does our perception of that change?
  3. Elin and Isaac have a very different views of the past, of Sam’s death. How do you explain the fact that they’re understanding of what happened are completely at odds. Does the truth finally emerge? How does that impact on Elin and her relationship with Isaac?
  4. In what ways does Pearse use the weather to establish the mood of the novel? How effective is this in colouring our view of events?
  5. Eventually we learn the dark secrets of the sanatorium. What does this tell us about the attitudes of the time to young women from ‘respectable’ families? How much have things changed over the decades since the clinic closed, are there lessons for the modern world here?
  6. How well do the different strands of the story work together; Sam’s death, the Sanatorium’s past and the contemporary murder mystery? What was most relevant for you as a reader?
  7. Do you think Pearse references the plot traits of the golden age of crime in her story, if so, in what ways is this apparent in the story?
  8. To what extent does Pearse use the tropes of horror fiction and the ghost story to develop the tension and fear in the novel?
  9. What do you think of Elin, the woman who emerges from the novel with a better understanding of past trauma and solves the mystery, has learned? How has she changed?
  • Bantam Press (18 Feb. 2021)
  • ISBN-13 : 978-1787633315