A Line Made by Walking – questions and activities for readers
Sara Baume’s Goldsmiths Prize-shortlisted novel is this month’s NCW Virtual Book Club read

Over May and June our (virtual) NCW Book Club is reading A Line Made by Walking by Sara Baume. We hope you’ll join us in reading the book, and that you’ll join the discussion in our Discord community or one of our Zoom discussion sessions.

In the meantime, here are some questions that you might like to consider or discuss with friends, family and fellow members of the Book Club as you make your way through the book. We even have some suggested activities that you might like to try out.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on A Line Made by Walking, and any other questions that the book sparks for you. See our post here to find out about all the different ways you can get involved.

Happy reading!


Questions of character

What do you think of Frankie? Do you sympathise with her decisions throughout the book? Is she a reliable narrator?

What do you think of the other characters in the book? Of Jink? Of Frankie’s family? Of the presence of her grandmother? What are their relationships with Frankie like?

How would you say that Frankie relates to the animals she encounters?

Why do you think Frankie boards the bus and tries to speak to William?

Whose is the face at the window?


Form and function

What expectations does the novel’s title create for you? What does it refer to, and is this a helpful way to understand Frankie’s story?

Why do you think Frankie tests herself by remembering works of art?

What effect does the inclusion of real works of art in a fictional story have?

What is the relationship between the story and the photographs of dead animals that the author has chosen to include? Why do you think Frankie starts taking these photographs? What purpose do they serve?

Would you say that the book has a traditional plot, or is Sara Baume writing in a different way? How would you describe the plot?

How would you describe Sara Baume’s style of writing in the novel?

What do you think of the ending of the book? Where do you think Frankie is going and why? Is the ending ambiguous and if so, why?


The writing of place

Why does the fallen tree take on so much significance for Frankie?

How would you describe the atmosphere at Frankie’s grandmother’s house? Is it the safe haven that Frankie is searching for?

Do you notice any other differences and similarities in how Frankie experiences indoors and outdoors? How about the city and the countryside? How does Sara Baume portray these different locations?

How does Sara Baume describe the gallery where Frankie used to work? How does Frankie feel about the gallery? What does this mean for her own art project?


Ideas and themes

What do you think of the theme of childhood through the book?

‘Not a happier person, I think, but better.’ (Ch. 4 ‘Mouse’). What do you think of the happier/better spectrum at work in the book? Are they the same thing? Which do you think Frankie feels is most important? Do you agree with her?

To what extent is this a story about failure? This might be in terms of Frankie’s sense of her own failure, but can you find other ways that Sara Baume explores the concept of failure?

What other themes and ideas struck you about the book? How would you describe their effect on the story, through character, setting, structure and/or plot?


Suggested activities

Look up one of the artworks that are included in the book (there’s a list of these at the back). Do you agree with Frankie’s interpretation of it? What other ways of looking at it can you think of?

Find a work of art that you like or that strikes you in some way – this could be on the internet, in a book, or even on your wall at home. Try writing a paragraph-long interpretation of the artwork in the style of A Line Made by Walking. Then, time yourself for five minutes and write a brief reflection on how you found this exercise. You could try this with friends or family or members of your writing group, and swap paragraphs – do they agree with your interpretation? Does sharing your writing spark any ideas that you might like to explore further?

Look around your house, garden, street or local area. If you were to start a photography project like Frankie’s, what might you choose to photograph from the objects/animals/people/etc around you? Create a real or imaginary album of your own.

Are there any other artforms or activities that are important for your life as a reader and writer (art, music, film, craft, cooking, walking, dancing, etc.)? How do these help to inspire your creativity? Write a brief reflection on how your different interests and hobbies interact in your creative life.

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