Medieval Book Club

Sinful FolkBook Clubs regularly choose novels by Ned Hayes for reading and discussion. Particular favorites of book clubs are SINFUL FOLK, his first novel set in the Middle Ages, and THE EAGLE TREE, the bestselling novel set in Olympia, Washington. To facilitate your book club’s enjoyment of these books, you can order a book club kit FOR FREE (there is no fee for these book club kits)

Sinful Folk Medieval Book Club Kit

Includes the following in each kit:

  • Sinful Folk book cover posters (10)
  • Authentic Medieval Recipe (1)
  • Sinful Folk full-color postcards (10)
  • Facsimile of original Chaucer manuscript (10)
  • Map of medieval England with Route (10)
  • Small rough-woven medieval-style bags (10)
  • Replica of Mear’s Ring (10)



Discussion Questions for Book Clubs reading SINFUL FOLK

(NOTE: For book groups, this document can be downloaded as a PDF )

  1. The author says that he wrote the novel Sinful Folk because he wanted to tell a story about universal emotions. Do you think he achieved this goal? If so, how do you connect with this story? How do you think Mear’s story connects with our experiences today? What might some of these “universal” emotions be? Can you identify a few universal themes in this story?
  2. What would you have done in Mear’s situation? Would you have made different choices?
  3. What would have happened if Mear’s son was not killed in the fire? What if Mear’s son had been wounded but not killed in the fire? Do you think Mear might have still gone on this journey?
  4. If the fire hadn’t happened, do you think Mear’s life could have gone on in the same way? Do you think her secret was safe?
  5. What other alternate versions of the story can you think of ? How could the novel have ended differently?
  6. What would today’s version of Mear be like? Can you think of someone who has gone through troubles or travails similar to Mear?
  7. How much have things changed in our time? Does anyone still try to “pass” as someone they are not?
  8. Do women today have to disguise themselves in any way to “pass” in different parts of society? Why do they disguise themselves?
  9. If you were the casting director for the movie of “Sinful Folk”, what actress would you choose to play the main character? What actor would you choose to play the part of Salvius? Why would you choose these actors?
  10. Compare what you understand of mother-child relationships in Mear’s era to those in our own. If you are a parent, how do you relate to Mear? Which of her experiences mirrors your own and which are foreign to your experience as a parent? (Examples of differences: Is it typical in our era for mothers to lose children young, or to see their children near death? Is it typical for people to find themselves near to starving in the winter time?)
  11. How do different languages play a role in the story? How many languages does Mear speak? How many languages do the people around her speak? What difference does this make to their class or level in society
  12. The average lifespan in the Middle Ages was 45-47 years old. How old do you think Mear is during the novel? And how does her age and experiences in the story compare to your age and your experiences?
  13. The author originally started writing this novel from the perspective of Salvius. Ten years later, he re-wrote the story from Mear’s point of view. What would this version of the story be like? Would you find the story as interesting, or interesting in a different way?
  14. Describe the layers of Mear’s disguises. How many layers are there to her life? How many layers are there to your life?
  15. How does Mear’s relationship to the men on the journey change as her secrets come out? How would your relationships change if some of your secrets were to come out?
  16. What part does knowledge and learning play in the story of the novel? Does Mear’s knowledge of history and literature enhance or diminish her ability to cope in the medieval world she lives in?
  17. The author is working on a new novel set in the Middle Ages. If the author were to choose one character (or set of characters) from Sinful Folk to feature in his new novel, which characters would you like him to feature?

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Medieval Book Reviews

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Morality Play Mistress of the Art of Death Hild-Nicola Griffith Sinful Folk