About Clara Callan:
It is the late 1930s and two sisters, Clara and Nora Callan, face the future with hope and uncertainty. Clara, a 30-ish school teacher, lives in small-town Ontario and longs for love and adventure. Nora, her flighty, gorgeous younger sister, escapes to New York and becomes a minor radio soap celebrity.
Told through the sisters′ diaries and letters, Clara Callan vividly brings the two sisters to life in a world struggling through the Depression, and the growing threat of fascism in Europe. In her small-town world, Clara searches for passion but violence, deception and loss, it seems, are never far away both sisters as they journey from innocence to experience.
Questions for discussion:
1. Who has the more fulfilling life, Clara or Nora? Why?
2. Women today have far more sexual freedom than they had seventy years ago. For an unmarried woman a sexual relationship was vastly more complicated and fraught with danger in the 1930s. Why?
3. What role does the hard-drinking Evelyn Dowling play in the lives of the two sisters in the book?
4. How was small town life in 1930s′ Canada different from life in Australia in those times? Or wasn′t it?
5. What are the advantages and disadvantages of telling a novel through letters?
6. The book explores popular culture in the 1930s - the novels, radio shows, movies that people read, listened to and watched. In what ways weer the artifacts of popular culture in Australia different or similar to those in Canada? Were people in Sydney or Melbourne, for example, reading Gone With the Wind in 1937? Were they watching British and American movies and listening to music from London and New York?
7. Compare this novel with other books about sisters, Australian or otherwise (Margaret Atwood′s The Blind Assassin, for example).
About Richard B Wright