Reading Group Discussion Questions
1. THE MIRK AND MIDNIGHT HOUR blends 1860’s Southern domestic life with the political and with the fantastic; do you think the author provided a satisfactory mix or would you prefer one or the other stressed more?
2. THE MIRK AND MIDNIGHT HOUR is based on “The Ballad of Tam Lin.” The original story featured an enchanted knight captured by traditional fairies. Do you like the way the author transformed the characters and tale into a Southern Civil War setting? Would you have preferred more magical fairies?
3. In the confederate South, about 30.8 % of white households owned slaves in 1860. Fifty percent of those held fewer than five. To be considered a plantation, a Southern farm must own twenty or more slaves. How do you think life would be different for slaves held on small family farms as compared to those on large plantations? Violet grew up with Laney; do you think a true friendship is possible when one person is the “owner” and one the “property?” If you had lived in 1862, who would you relate to—Violet? Sunny? Laney? Miss Ruby Jewel? Jubal? Scarlet O’Hara?
4. Perhaps one- to two-thousand slaves escaped each year; would you have tried to escape if you were in Laney’s position? Jubal’s? A field worker on a large plantation?
5. In the beginning, how did Violet excuse the common Southern practice of slave-holding? How did her attitude change, as the book progresses? Do you think this is realistic?
6. In the Victorian era, social mores and laws concerning females were much more restrictive than they are today; do you think women still found ways to express themselves and live freely in their relationships? If you had lived then, would you have rebelled? In which ways?
7. The wearing of corsets was controversial during the second half of the 1800’s. (See “Corset Controversy” on the author’s website.) What modern styles are reflective of this Victorian style?
8. What aspects of Violet’s personality allowed her to deal with all that was thrown at her as the story progresses?
9. By the time the book begins, Violet is already conflicted about the war; what caused her to question it? Why did so many Southerners feel the war was justified?
10. Sunny allowed herself to be tempted into a terrible act by her infatuation with Dorian; do you think Violet handled the situation well? Should Sunny and Dorian have been turned over to the law?
11. One major theme of the book is loyalty—what aspects of the narrative bring this out?
10. Another major theme of the book is that of sacrifice—both self-sacrifice for causes and the idea that the ends justify the means. How are these depicted? Where does your opinion lie? How far would you go?