This readers group guide for The Beloveds includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.Introduction
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As sinister as Daphne du Maurier’s classic Rebecca
, The Beloveds
plumbs the depths of sibling rivalry with wit and menace.
Betty Stash is not a Beloved—but her little sister, the delightful Gloria, is. She’s the one with the golden curls and sunny smile, the one whose best friend used to be Betty’s, the one whose husband should
have been Betty’s. And then, to everyone’s surprise, Gloria inherits the family estate—a vast, gorgeous pile of ancient stone, imposing timbers, and lush gardens—that was never meant to be hers.
For Betty, this is the final indignity. As she single-mindedly pursues her plan to see the estate returned to her in all its glory, her determined and increasingly unhinged behavior escalates to the point of no return. The Beloveds
will have you wondering if there’s a length to which an envious sister won’t go.Topics and Questions for Discussion
1. How are Betty and Gloria different? What does their behavior tell us about the two sisters?
2. Describe Betty’s connection with Pipits. What draws her to the family home?
3. “No matter how my sister and her kind show off their sweetness, their so-called goodness, they are made of more than honey; we are all only half-known” (p. 13). Would you agree with this statement? Is being “half-known” a good or bad thing? What parts of people are often shared? What do people usually keep to themselves?
4. Discuss Betty’s earlier relationship with Henry. Why did she like him in the first place? Why did Betty believe Henry had feelings for her, and therefore had betrayed her?
5. Betty seems to view the world in terms of “me vs. them.” Who are Betty’s enemies and why?
6. Shortly after the reading of Mother’s will, what does Betty discover about her husband's relationship and how does she react? Were you surprised?
7. Why does Betty smash the bowl of pudding and poisonous berries? What does this change indicate in Betty’s character?
8. How does she feel about Alice’s death? How does her former best friend’s absence influence the atmosphere at Pipits?
9. Revisit Betty’s reaction when Henry starts packing away Mother’s old possessions. Why does she disagree with her brother-in-law?
10. Betty says Helen is “nothing but a common thief” (p. 107). Why does Betty describe Helen this way? How would you describe their conversation? What incites the attack?
11. “All people really want is for someone to stand by their side so that they are not alone. The thought of being alone terrifies them” (p. 118). Do you agree with Betty’s thinking? When she denies this statement applies to her, how did you react? Do you believe her?
12. In the letter that Betty’s father wrote to her mother, he says, “We rarely regret the things we do. Only the things we do not. Marry me, and we will see the world together” (p. 132). How do his words affect Betty? What happens to her original plan?
13. What sparks her final plan to burn down Pipits while also sacrificing herself?
14. Betty takes on the identity of a Mayfair Lady. When under disguise, how does everyone see her? How does Betty view herself? How does this differ from her normal self?
15. Describe how Betty’s relationship with Gloria, Henry, Fi, and Noah has changed throughout the novel. What’s her state of mind as she leaves the new grounds?Enhance Your Book Club
1. Compare how the sisters treat the house throughout the book. What do their actions toward Pipits say about each character’s psychology and beliefs?
2. The conversation between Betty and Gloria on p. 228 alludes to Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper.
What other parts of the novel remind you of this influential story?
3. “And then, faint, as though it is whispering from the top of the soaring staircase, I hear it speak” (p. 311). Imagine how the story might continue after the novel’s last lines. What happens to Betty?
4. If you were in Betty’s shoes, how would you have reacted to losing your best friend, lover, and home to your younger sister? How do you think Betty’s life would have unfolded if there were no Gloria or any Beloved? Now imagine your reaction as a Beloved.