As a huge fan of Jenny Colgan, I wanted to read Welcome to the School by the Sea with my book club just to be able to discuss the novel in detail.
I was (more than a little) disappointed to realize that despite the supposed 2022 publication date, Welcome to the School by the Sea is actually a reprint of a book Jenny Colgan wrote under her pen name Jane Beaton in 2008.
Sadly, this is the second time I have fallen for the “reprint ruse” when I thought I was getting a brand new Colgan novel. Where Have All the Boys Gone was also reprinted, likely to capitalize on Jenny Colgan’s significant fan base that doesn’t know her earlier novels as well.
Also similarly, Welcome to the School by the Sea highlights just how much her writing has grown over the years. She has improved so much in her storytelling that it honestly almost doesn’t feel like a book by Jenny Colgan.
Still, this might be a perfect book club pick for you if any of the following are true:
- You’re a Jenny Colgan fan in general and want to read anything she has ever written
- You enjoyed the Malory Towers books and are looking for a grown-up version of those stories
- You love reading about boarding schools
- You’re looking to discuss how conversations around body image and appearance have changed over the years
Looking for more Jenny Colgan book club questions?
While definitely not my favorite Jenny Colgan novel, there is still a lot to unpack in this first book from the Maggie Adair series.
Here are some Welcome to the School by the Sea book club questions to get your reading group conversations started!
Welcome to the School by the Sea Book Club Questions
1. When reading about Maggie’s interview for the boarding school, what details struck you?
For example, the focus on clothing and appearance, the repeated mentions of class and how boarding school girls could benefit from a teacher used to “rougher” kids?
2. There are a lot of characters introduced quickly in the first chapters of the book.
Between Maggie Adair, Veronica Deveral (the headmistress), Simone, Fliss, and Alice, who was the most interesting to you? Who did you identify with the most?
3. There is a lot of discussion about weight, appearance, and body types throughout the novel. Did this fit into the story, or did you find it distracting?
How do you think conversations about body image have changed (or haven’t changed) since this book was originally written in 2008?
4. Maggie struggles with her feelings of loyalty to Stan, her long-time boyfriend, and interest in her fellow boarding school teacher, David.
How did reading about her internal conflicts make you feel? Did you sympathize with her confusion or get frustrated with her inaction? Why?
5. The need for the girls to fit in amongst their peers is a huge theme in the book. It leads Fliss to act in ways even she feels uncomfortable with and drives Simone to deep unhappiness when she feels like an outsider.
Do you think these types of feelings are limited to girls in boarding schools? What examples have you seen play out in real life?
6. What moments in the books struck you the most, where you kept thinking about them even after finishing Welcome to the School by the Sea? Why do you think they stuck with you?
7. Are there any characters you found yourself wanting to give a talking to and speak some sense into them? What would you tell them?
8. Veronica Deveral finally meets the man she gave up as a baby so many years ago. How did you feel about her responses to Daniel when she finally learned the truth?
Did you empathize with her situation and position as Headmistress, or did she blow it at a critical moment with her only son? Why?
9. The book ends with a lot of the story unresolved as a setup for the next novel. Do you like having cliffhangers at the end of a book when it’s in a series, or do you prefer complete resolution? Why or why not?
10. How realistic did the boarding school and the girl’s experience feel to you? What made it feel real? What felt like a cliche?
11. If you have read other books by Jenny Colgan, how do you feel the writing style from this novel compares to some of her later works?
If this is your first Jenny Colgan novel, would you want to read more books from this author?
Get a copy of these book club questions as a PDF below.
What to Read Next: More Easy Reads
Don’t have a book club yet? Why not start your own! Check out my article on How to Form a Book Club for tips on creating the ideal club for your lifestyle.
Did you read Welcome to the School by the Sea with your book club? What did you think? Leave me a comment below about how the questions and book worked for you!