Spoiler Alert: Please note that the questions below contain spoilers.
The title of the book is drawn from a line in Shakespeare’s play Romeo and Juliet. “Love is a smoke rais’d with the fume of sighs; being purg’d, a fire sparkling in lovers’ eyes.” How is the phrase “a fire sparkling” reflected in the themes and plot elements of the novel? Would you call this book a tragedy, like Romeo and Juliet?
In chapter 1, Gillian says: “I should have seen it coming— felt the tremors before the big quake. If I had, maybe I would have been ready to act when the walls came crashing down. But my behavior was more in line with a flight response. I didn’t pause to evaluate the situation or choose the best way forward. I simply took off.” Consider other situations in the book when the characters respond with a flight response. Can you think of situations when the opposite occurs and the characters choose to fight?
In chapter 1, Gillian says: “But maybe I wasn’t meant to be happy. Or to be a mother. Maybe the universe was just teasing me, letting me float briefly to the clouds to enjoy the view from there, only to slam me back down to earth and rub my face in the dirt.” Discuss Gillian’s transformation throughout the book. Do you believe she will find happiness in the future? Will her relationship with Geoffrey be a success? Why or why not?
“There was always something wonderfully haunting about Gram’s attic.” Discuss the role of “ghosts” in the novel. How many can you think of, and how do they play a part in the plot or in the growth of the characters?
Consider the twinship of April and Vivian. Can you think of some examples from the book when the sisters’ personal lives are like mirror reflections of each other? Conversely, how are their personalities separate and unique? Also discuss how April feels like an “us” versus how and when she asserts her individuality before and after Vivian’s death. At the end of her section in the novel, she tells Jack that she is ready to let go of her sister and finally be her true self. Do you believe she succeeded in that goal?
What other plot elements in the book involve this theme—of mirror reflections or twinship—and how do they play out?
Do you believe that, deep down, Gillian’s grandmother wanted the photographs to be discovered? Or would she have preferred to take her secret to the grave?
Discuss why Gillian’s grandmother spends so much time recounting the intimate details of Vivian’s relationship with Theodore, including her experiences with her abusive father, when April wasn’t even in the country to witness it. How much of it do you believe is true? Explain your answer.
How did you perceive April in the early scenes leading up to the bombing of the house on Craven Street? Did you like her? Did you believe she might be spying for the Germans? Discuss how your response relates to the literary device of perspective in terms of April as the true storyteller in Vivian’s section of the novel.
When Gillian returns to Malcolm’s penthouse to collect her things, were you hopeful or optimistic that Malcolm might prove himself worthy of her love? Why or why not?
Many women risked or sacrificed their lives as agents for the Special Operations Executive during World War II. How did you feel about April’s decision, as a mother, when she accepted the mission to leave her son and parachute into France? In your opinion, how much of that decision was politically motivated versus personal, and in what way? Also discuss the issue of women serving in the military and leaving their children behind. Do you feel it’s different from men making the same sacrifice?
Discuss the overall message or lessons learned from the two different timelines in A Fire Sparkling. What does Gillian learn from her grandmother’s tale from the past, and how does that help her in her own life? What does Edward learn? And what does Gram learn from sharing her story?