Today is week 1 of our group read-a-long of Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson. This week we read chapters 1-10, and we hope you’ll leave your comments and/or answers to the questions after the post.
We welcome you to post your thoughts on your blog and provide a link or just type your thoughts in the comments section of the discussion post; whatever works best for you. You can answer our questions or just discuss whatever you found most interesting in each section.
1. What are your first impressions of the book so far?
Serena: The character of Isabel seems well drawn, but Ruth is still a bit of a mystery. The Locktons seems to be stereotypical Tories/Loyalists at this point who handle their slaves like property and little else — meaning they get slapped and beat without much provocation. Anderson has enabled me to see the horse-drawn carriages and the streets with the dust kicking up and the political tensions leave an immediate impression. I’m enjoying the novel from the young Isabel’s point of view so far, and I hope we get to know more about Ruth and Curzon.
Anna: I’m enjoying the book so far. I think Anderson does a great job setting the scene, and the characters seem to be well crafted. Already, I feel how the tensions are rising in the city between the Loyalists and the Rebels.
The Girl (Anna’s daughter, age 13): I really like it. It intrigued me, and I can’t wait to read more. There’s a lot of suspense, and I really want to know what happens to these characters, Isabel in particular.
2. When we meet Isabel after the death of her owner, why do you think she turns to the tales of ghosts to guide her?
S: I think that Isabel hasn’t had the guidance of her mother in some time and is looking for anything to guide her out of the precarious situations she finds herself and her sister in, especially since the will that sets them free goes missing. Remembering the stories her mother told her about ghosts, she has little choice but to hope that her mother’s ghost will be there to protect them or at least help them choose the right path. But when that fails, she has little else to rely on but herself.
A: Isabel is still a child, but when she’s with Ruth, she has to be the adult. With her mother and Miss Finch gone, she has no one to turn to. The hope of her mother’s guidance, even in ghost form, is all she has.
TG: Because, besides her sister, the ghosts are the only thing she has. It’s sad that her mother’s ghost hasn’t appeared.
3. Once under the control of the Locktons, do you think Isabel has the ability to protect herself and her sister? Just herself? Just her sister? or Neither?
S: I’m not sure that Isabel can protect herself or Ruth from whatever the Locktons throw at them, especially given the tenuousness of the Lockton’s own place in the New World. Perhaps she can soften the blows or even take some of the blows for her sister, but Madam Lockton seems like a woman in need of some anger management courses.
A: She is a slave, mere property to the Locktons, and they can do whatever they want to her and to Ruth. Even if she tries to escape, they will likely find her. She can’t stop them from beating or even killing her or Ruth if they want to. She wasn’t in a position to protect herself or Ruth once Miss Finch died, and whether she can do so under the Locktons is questionable. I think it all depends on Curzon.
TG: No. She barely gets to talk to her sister anymore. I think she’ll manage, though, and eventually find a way to protect them.
4. Do you think Isabel does the right thing by seeking out Curzon with information about the Locktons, or do you think it makes more sense for her to take Becky’s approach and stay loyal to the Locktons, no matter her opinion on the war, in order to keep her and Ruth safe?
S: Honestly, I don’t see that Isabel has another choice by to turn to Curzon with what she knows about the Loyalists and the Locktons. He’s her only way out, and even though she extracts certain promises from him, he’s still subordinate to the Rebel who could decide not to help her at all. Her sister is clearly upset by Mrs. Lockton’s hold over her, but Isabel cannot get her to open up about what happens when she’s not around, so the best solution she sees is anything that will get them out and free.
A: I think passing information to Curzon is the only real chance she has for freedom, though that decision could come back to haunt her if the Locktons somehow find out she’s the informant. But she’s powerless otherwise, so this is the only thing she can do at this point to try to change their situation.
TG: I think it’s smart of her to give information to the Rebels because if she doesn’t, no one else could pass that information on. It does put Isabel and Ruth in danger, but in the long run, I think it’s the best thing to do.
What did you think? Feel free to pose your own questions in the comments as well!