Some Questions for Reading Groups
1. Why do you think Francis agreed to join the Gunpowder Plotters? How much did expediency, professional pride and religious, political, military, or romantic issues influence his behaviour?
2. Do you feel that Kate, given the resources available to her, compromised herself? Is she strong, or does she act as other young women in her financial and social class might have done? What would you have done in her place?
3. What does glove-making represent for Kate? Why does she take such vehement pride in her trade skills? Do you think that this inherited male trade empowers her or makes her feel angry and frustrated because she must work ′below the screen"? What people did she meet through her glove-making, and how do these commissions make a difference in her life? Are they positive or negative influences?
4. Was Traylor′s relationship with Kate by chance or by design? Did he want just sex, or did he intend something more from the start? Did he always mean for her to provide refuge to (eventually high profile) papists? Did he, or did he not, betray her?
5. How does the violence of religious intolerance of Britain in 1605, the time of this book, differ from that of today, throughout the world? What role did/does government play in implementing or preventing persecution of religious fanaticism?
6. Can the religious beliefs of one part of a country′s population change the course of that nation′s history? In what way? Can you see that happening today? How much do you think the discovery of the Gun Powder Plot changed the future of Britain? What might have been the impact for the British Empire, or the United States, if it had not been discovered?
7. How safe would you have felt at Powder Mote at the time Kate first arrived?
8. Do you think that Kate recognized her Powder Mote "observer"?
9. Do you think Cecil trusted Francis at the beginning of their ′arrangement′? Did Cecil have an overall plan for what Francis would provide, or did he use each new event or bit of information to re-form his strategy?
10. Why do you think Cecil chose not to call Francis to task on transgressions? Were they transgressions in Cecil′s eyes - or merely moves in a lethal chess game?
11. How was Cecil able to return Kate′s Bible and rosary to her through Francis with no repercussions to either?
12. What role do you think that the father-and-son relationship between Boomer and Francis plays in the book?
13. What was Boomer′s allure for Kate that Francis did not offer?
14. Who is the real villain of the book? Guy (Guido) Fawkes? Robert Catesby? If not, who else?
15. Was the Gun Powder Plot an actual act of treason for passionately held beliefs, or was it the making of cynical ambitious men in power?
16. Was Francis a politically shrewd fire master who used his mysterious professional skills to shock and awe in furtherance of his own ends, or was he a social and political naif?
17. What passions do you think compelled Francis to live as he did? Was he able to come to terms with his life′s unexpected turns? Do you feel that his future holds great adventure, cynicism or a quiet acceptance of what he did not do?
18. What did you learn about the origins of fireworks, and the power held by the ′fire masters′ who could create them? For what political, military and social purposes was their knowledge of fire called upon? By whom? Where did fire masters rank within their society as revealed in this book? Why?
© Christie Dickason, 15 September 2005
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