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2 Burnside Literature- A to Z

The Stolen Child: A Novel


The Stolen Child: A Novel Cover



Reading Group Guide

1. Henry Day begins his narration with “Dont call me a fairy” and then he takes the reader on a quasi-scientific account of the differences between fairies, hobgoblins, and other “sublunary spirits” [pp. 3-4]. Yet Aniday and the rest of the changelings refer to themselves as “faeries” throughout the book. Why does Henry insist on not being called a fairy? In what other ways does Henry attempt to distance himself from his prior existence?

2. Twins and other twosomes figure predominantly in the book: Henry and Aniday, Tess and Speck, Big Oscar and Little Oscar, Edward and Gustav, Mary and Elizabeth. Other characters form pairs: Luchóg and Smaolach, Kivi and Blomma, Onions and Béka, George Knoll and Jimmy Cummings. What is the significance of the doubles? In what ways can Henry and Aniday be read as two halves of one being? How does the author, beyond using two alternating narrators, play with the theme of doubles?

3. Rather than each chapter echoing its counterpart, the two stories run at different speeds until the end of the book. How does the author manage time in the novel? Where in the narrative does he relate the same incident from different perspectives and in different sequences?

4. When Henry and his friends attempt to synchronize their watches before looking for little Oscar Love, not one of them has the same time as the others. At other points in the story, Henry or Aniday forget the time of day or, in some cases, what year it is. What does that say about their place in time?

5. In chapter 35, Ruth Day says “Ive known all along, Henry” [p. 301]. Similarly, Henry dreams of Tess changing her form and saying that she, too, knows the truth. What does Henry think they know about him?

6. A critical event in the novel is Bill Days suicide and Henrys muted reaction. What did Bill come to understand about his son? Why do you think Henrys mother, Ruth Day, didnt react in a similar manner?

7. In the poem “The Stolen Child” by W. B. Yeats, the faeries attempt to entice the child away “for the worlds more full of weeping than you can understand.” In what ways could the fairyland in Donohues novel be considered better than the real world? In what ways could it be considered worse?

8. The changeling legends were cautionary tales meant to illustrate the dangers of creatures that many people once believed in. As McInnes points out in the novel, they were also horrifying explanations for “failure to thrive,” physical deformities, or mental illness in children. Are Henry and Anidays stories cautionary tales? What do you make of the changeling who took the place of young Gustav Ungerland and never said another word?

9. What is the significance of music in Henry Days transformation? Does the final concert offer Henry a chance at redemption?

10. What role do books play in Anidays transformation? As Speck teaches Aniday to read and write, does his understanding of the world change? Is his memoir a chance at redemption?

11. Anidays predecessor is referred to as Chopin, but we never really know much about Gustav Ungerland as a changeling. Similarly, once Igel and the others depart the world, they are rarely discussed. Why do the faeries avoid mentioning those who have departed?

12. Why does Speck leave? What is the significance of her map on the ceiling? Do you think Aniday finds Speck?

13. The epigraph from “Nostos” by Louise Gluck states: “We look at the world once, in childhood. / The rest is memory.” Why do you think the author chose it? How does it relate to the novel?

14. Is this book a fairy tale for adults? If so, what is the moral of the story? Who, in the end, is the stolen child?

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 10 comments:

Kate Keller, January 1, 2012 (view all comments by Kate Keller)
Really liked this book. It was fantasy but based in the modern world. Great cast of characters, especially the 2 main protagonists. Great read.
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radthomas, January 2, 2011 (view all comments by radthomas)
I came across this book from a Powell's daily email. As some books take a few chapters to get to the meat of a book, this one did not. I was captivated from the start. I have not let this one go from my library of books just yet.
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(1 of 2 readers found this comment helpful)
andrea West Linn, June 18, 2010 (view all comments by andrea West Linn)
I do not usually enjoy books dealing with the fantasy world, however, Donohue had me riveted from the first page.
The alternating stories of two boys' lives, one boy replaced by the life of a forest fairy boy, make for an
intriguing, absorbing story. The lives of both boys seem destined to intertwine at any moment, but it isn't
until the very end that their worlds collide. It is beautifully written and contains some memorable and poignant
comments on life.
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(1 of 1 readers found this comment helpful)
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Product Details

Donohue, Keith
Anchor Books
Fantasy - Contemporary
Science Fiction and Fantasy-Fantasy-Contemporary
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Publication Date:
May 8, 2007
Grade Level:
8.08x5.19x.73 in. .56 lbs.

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Related Subjects

Featured Titles » Literature
Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
Fiction and Poetry » Science Fiction and Fantasy » A to Z
Fiction and Poetry » Science Fiction and Fantasy » Fantasy » Contemporary

The Stolen Child: A Novel Used Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
$6.50 In Stock
Product details 336 pages Anchor Books - English 9781400096534 Reviews:
"Review A Day" by , "Quite often important books are marginalized by obtuse prejudice, and I hope this will not be the fate of Keith Donohue's utterly absorbing The Stolen Child....On the surface, Donohue may seem to have written a clever debut novel about fairies. But the real triumph of the book is that, while our backs were turned, he has performed a switch and delivered a luminous and thrilling novel about our humanity." (read the entire Washington Post Book World review)
"Review" by , "A wonderful, fantasy-laden spare and unsentimental that it's impossible not to be moved."
"Review" by , "Graced with telling period touches...the novel resurrects an America that now seems as exotic as Middle Earth....Donohue's sparkling debut especially delights because, by surrounding his fantasy with real-world, humdrum detail, he makes magic believable."
"Review" by , "An ingenious, spirited allegory for adolescent angst, aging, the purpose of art, etc., that digs deep. (Grade: A)"
"Review" by , "Donohue paints a vivid picture of American life from the 1950s into the 1970s and the pressures on a boy who, in addition to not being entirely human, is growing up in the Vietnam War era, when attitudes toward sex, drugs and patriotism were undergoing a sea change."
"Review" by , "Despite the fantastic element, Donohue anchors the book in a mid-century America that feels specific and real. A haunting, unusual first novel..."
"Review" by , "Told in alternating stories, the voices of the young boy and the changeling provide vivid contrasts. Donohue is masterful at evoking time and place, and The Stolen Child will resonate with anyone who longs for their youth."
"Review" by , "Enchanting....Donohue seamlessly blends the fantastical and the real here, with a matter-of-fact approach to the magic that exists on the edges of everyday life. This is a mysterious journey told in lyrical prose."
"Review" by , "The book gains unexpected force as the plots culminates in a torrent of emotion."
"Review" by , "The Stolen Child is unsentimental and vividly imagined. Keith Donohue evokes the otherworldly with humor and the ordinary with wonder. I enjoyed it immensely."
"Review" by , "The Stolen Child is a truly remarkable work on the ancient legend of the changeling. Keith Donohue's poignant take on the myth, rooting it in our time, and telling it from the alternating viewpoints of the two changelings, makes for one of the most touching and absorbing novels I have read in years."
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