Book Clubbin’: 9 Discussion Questions for ‘The Sanatorium’ by Sarah Pearse

It’s time for our monthly Book Clubbin’ blog feature! This snowy February, we’re ramping up the chill with a gothic locked-room mystery set in the Swiss Alps. Grab your cozy blankets and get ready to dive into an immersive story that will transport you to an isolated getaway. Lockdowns and social distancing don’t mean you can’t start up a book club with your pals. Just book an hour (or more if the discussion gets heated) to meet every month through video chat!

This month, our pick is The Sanatorium by Sarah Pearse, narrated by Elizabeth Knowelden. The Sanatorium is Pearse’s debut novel, and it’s already getting a ton of buzz as Reese Witherspoon’s February book club pick.

Half-hidden by forests and overshadowed by threatening peaks, Le Sommet has always been a sinister place. Renovated from a sanatorium into a five-star minimalist hotel, Le Sommet is where detective Elin Warner reluctantly finds herself to celebrate Isaac’s, her long-estranged brother, engagement. The imposing, isolated getaway spot immediately puts her on edge. When the party wakes up one morning to find Laure, Isaac’s fiancée, has disappeared amidst the arrival of a snowstorm that cut off all access to the hotel, Elin must find her before something worse happens.

This month’s pick is a sinister, atmospheric listen that will keep you up all night. If you’re ready to start discussing The Sanatorium with your book club, dive into the questions below. Beware— SPOILERS ahead.

—————MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS!————

1) Le Sommet has a sinister past. Nestled in the Swiss Alps and long plagued by rumors, the abandoned sanatorium has been renovated into a luxury hotel. Do you think you would ever stay in a hotel like Le Sommet that was converted from a building with a dark past?

2) During the course of the story, a snowstorm cuts off access to and from the hotel. Why do you think Pearse chose to keep her characters in an enclosed environment?

3) The Sanatorium draws on elements of gothic horror, a genre in which the setting is an integral part of the story. Discuss how Le Sommet, the luxurious yet unsettling hotel, is almost a character unto itself.

4) At the start of the novel, Elin is haunted by a few things in her past: the death of her brother and an investigation gone horribly wrong. Why do you think Pearse made Elin such a vulnerable character? How does she grow as the book progresses?

5) While the majority of the book is focused on Elin, Pearse does bring in different perspectives from time to time. Do you think this added to the story?

6) We eventually learn the sanatorium was a place that abused and exploited vulnerable women. Discuss your thoughts about this. Did it change how you viewed the hotel and the archive room that was planned?

7) Did the ending surprise you? Why or why not?

8) What did you think about the epilogue? If Pearse wrote a sequel, would you be interested?

9) If The Sanatorium was being adapted into a film or tv show, who would you want to be cast?


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Staff Pick: The Chicken Sisters by KJ Dell’Antonia

Title: The Chicken Sisters

Author: Kj Dell’antonia

Narrator: Cassandra CampbellXe Sands

As a lover of fried foods, a fan of reality TV, and a huge believer in Reese’s book club picks, I knew I had to check out KJ Dell’Antonia’s The Chicken Sisters.

Taking inspiration from the secret family recipes you’ll find in the book, I’ve broken down the recipe that made The Chicken Sisters an absolute hit. Simply combine:

• 2 parts lighthearted family feuding

• 1 sweet, slow-burning romance

• A heaping handful of secrets

• 1 meddling reality TV show host

• And a dash of classic Southern charm

Over the past century, the fictional town of Merinac, Kansas has seen two family-owned restaurants ruthlessly competing for the role of the town’s best fried chicken. But when the daughter of Chicken Mimi’s marries the son from Chicken Frannies, the rift between the families grows like never before. In an attempt to finalize the true best recipe, the families sign on for Food Wars, a well-known reality show known to showcase competing restaurants and the drama that entails.

With the incredibly talented narration duo that is Cassandra Campbell and Xe Sands, The Chicken Sisters is a story you won’t want to miss in audio. Their subtly charming voices are so well-matched with the quirky characters of small-town Merinac that they truly become as integral to the plot as the sisters themselves.

KJ Dell’Antonia has also truly impressed me with her ability to accomplish what I love about reality TV: a scripted story that still somehow feels entirely real. The characters don’t stand out in my memory because they’re perfectly kind, smart, or funny, but because they enter uncharted territory and end up making realistic mistakes. Dell’Antonia made it easy to picture myself in their shoes, building an unforgettable connection to her characters.

All in all, The Chicken Sisters reminds me of a modern day, fried chicken-fueled rendition of Romeo and Juliet, in absolutely the best way. Though there aren’t any theatrical deaths (not a spoiler, I promise), there’s no shortage of dramatic moments that will keep you coming back for more.

Publisher Summary:

In tiny Merinac, Kansas, Chicken Mimi’s and Chicken Frannie’s have spent a century vying to serve up the best fried chicken in the state–and the legendary feud between their respective owners, the Moores and the Pogociellos, has lasted just as long. No one feels the impact more than thirty-five-year-old widow Amanda Moore, who grew up working for her mom at Mimi’s before scandalously marrying Frank Pogociello and changing sides to work at Frannie’s. Tired of being caught in the middle, Amanda sends an SOS to Food Wars, the reality TV restaurant competition that promises $100,000 to the winner. But in doing so, she launches both families out of the frying pan and directly into the fire. . .

The last thing Brooklyn-based organizational guru Mae Moore, Amanda’s sister, wants is to go home to Kansas. But when her career implodes, helping the fading Mimi’s look good on Food Wars becomes Mae’s best chance to reclaim the limelight–even if doing so pits her against Amanda and Frannie’s. Yet when family secrets become public knowledge, the sisters must choose: Will they fight with each other, or for their heritage?

Read more and sample the audio →


New to Audiobooks.com? Get your first book free, PLUS a bonus book from our VIP selection when you sign up for our one-month free trial. Digital audiobooks make audible stories come to life when you’re commuting, working out, cleaning, cooking, and more! Listening is easy with our top-rated free audiobook apps for iOS and Android, which let you download & listen to bestselling audiobooks on the go, wherever you are. Click here to get your free audiobooks!