Article published on March 13, 2018.
In the latest instalment in our series of reading group guides, Paul Burke poses some questions about 29 Seconds by T.M. Logan, the current BookNoir Book of the Month.
29 Seconds is a fast-paced thriller in which an act of bravery unexpectedly provides Sarah Haywood with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make all her problems disappear. No consequences. No comeback. No chance of being found out. She’d be a fool not to take up the offer, wouldn’t she?
- Is Sarah caught up in a nightmare or is her situation all too realistic in contemporary workplaces and wider society?
- Sarah is apparently pushed to the point where she contemplates the unthinkable. Does what happens to her seem sufficient to push an intelligent, decent human being to commit murder? Is it revenge, justice or self preservation?
- How realistic do you think the scene in the taxi is? Is it typical of the experiences some women have to deal with today? Did the story chime with the recent #metoo campaign?
- Lovelock’s deviant behaviour is an open secret at the university. Why do the authorities put up with it? Examples of such institutional cover-ups have certainly featured heavily in recent reports of sexual assaults by famous men. Do you think that Logan’s portrayal of the institutional aspects of Sarah’s situation ring true?
- Sarah does her best to defend herself against Lovelock in the manner she considers most appropriate at the time. Could/should she have acted differently? What would have been the likely consequences of reporting Lovelock to his superiors and/or informing the police?
- Sarah is still in love with her husband, a man who left her for another woman at the beginning of the novel. Initially, it seems that she would take him back if he asked her to. Do you think that would continue to be true of Sarah as she is at the end of the novel?
- Alan Lovelock is a vile man. What do you think motivates and sustains his behaviour? To what extent is his behaviour facilitated by others?
- What motivates Sarah to act the way she does, that is, to give the go ahead for Lovelock to be murdered?
- Why does Sarah regret her decision almost immediately? Did this rapid change in her judgement since likely based on her experiences up to that point?
- How would you sum up Sarah’s character and the ways in which she changes as events escalate?
- Why do you think Sarah reacts the way she does when she meets Volkov? Why didn’t she just ignore his offer and forget about him?
- After Lovelock fights back, Sarah is forced to resort to measures she would never have considered before. How do you feel about the way she dealt with Lovelock in the end?
- What do you think it says about the majority of us as readers that we are happy Lovelock gets his comeuppance at the end?
- Can you imagine 29 Seconds as a film or a TV series? If the setting was changed, for example, to an American college (e.g. Girl on the Train), how would that affect the story? Is being true to the novel’s intent more important than maintaining its time and place?
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