On a festive seafaring expedition, the tightly knit British community confronts disaster in the shape of an earthquake and ensuing tidal wave. Swept overboard, Charlotte, John Dollar, and eight young girls who are Charlotte's pupils awake on a remote island beach. As they struggle to stay alive, their dependence on John overwhelms him, and an atmosphere of menace and doom builds, culminating in shocking and riveting scenes of both death and survival.
Read an Excerpt
They appeared with the sun at their backs on the crest of the hill after daybreak, black figures, threading their way toward the sea through the gray rocks and heather into the town of St. Ives.
The old Indian descended first, leading the donkey on a tether; Charlotte rode across the donkey's back. Charlotte's hair had gone from gold to white when she was rescued from the island years ago, and it fell around her now, wild and full and loose, because the Indian had thought it looked its best that way. The Indian had rinsed the long white hair in tea she brewed from flowers of the English... see more
Reading Group Guide
The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for discussion for Marianne Wiggins' John Dollar. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book. READING GROUP QUESTIONS AND TOPICS FOR DISCUSSION
- John Dollar traces the fortunes of Charlotte Lewes, a grieving World War I widow who feels like a passionless "ghost" floating through the streets of England. When she comes to teach English children in Rangoon, Burma, Charlotte recovers her sensual nature and experiences a reawakening of love with John Dollar, a sailor with an unknown past. But this novel is hardly a straightforward love story. How would you describe Marianne Wiggins' novel to a friend? What kind of a novel is John Dollar? A satire? A tragedy? In particular, what roles do religion, power, imperialism, and magic play?
- The members of the English community in Rangoon devote their lives to creating a facsimile of their English homeland, which to them is "myth and memory, a place more real in microcosm, in its re-creation, than in any actuality." Why does this bewilder and even offend Charlotte, and how is she different from her "mannered, pre-emptive, supercilious" countrymen?
- The first time the snake appears in the novel, it is coming through the window of Oopi's room, threatening to slip inside her and kill her. To fen