The Faber Book Club
Our online book club is run by Faber Members but open to all. Each month Faber staff from across the company select key works from current releases to classic texts. We release a monthly set of suggested questions around titles selected as well as holding events three times a year for further discussion.
They by Kay Dick
Championed by Margaret Atwood (‘creepily prescient’), Emily St. John Mandel (‘a masterpiece’), Edna O’Brien (‘an enchantress’) and Eimear McBride (‘lush, hypnotic, compulsive’), Faber’s new edition of this lost 1977 classic is introduced by Carmen Maria Machado – and we are so excited to share it with a new generation of readers.
They paints a nightmarish portrait of Britain – but not as we know it. THEY begin with a dead dog, shadowy footsteps, confiscated books. Soon the National Gallery is purged; eerie towers survey the coast; mobs stalk the countryside destroying artworks, and those who resist. THEY capture dissidents – writers, painters, musicians, even the unmarried and childless – in military sweeps, ‘curing’ these subversives of identity. Survivors gather together as cultural refugees, preserving their crafts, creating, loving and remembering. But THEY make it easier to forget . . .
Suggested Questions on They:
- THEY persecute acts of creation and emotion as both a ‘savage mob’ and faceless oppressor. Are they the same entity?
- What forces do you think THEY represent? Do you think what THEY symbolised in 1977 is the same for readers today?
- How do you view the role of gender in the novel, especially in terms of family units and unconventional living arrangements?
- Claire-Louise Bennett describes the novel’s ‘pastoral horror’. What function does landscape and nature play? Is there a contrast between the symbolism of rural and urban environments?
- How does the novel engage with the idea of Englishness?
- Is there a contrast between high and low culture – TV and books; intellectuals and the ‘masses’ – in the novel? What do you think about class in relation to the characters?
- How do you view the subject of love in the novel?
- What themes feel most relevant and timely today? For instance, how might the novel interact with debates around free speech, cancel culture, queerness, social media or surveillance?
- Does They remind you of any other dystopias, whether by male or female authors? Do you see any similarities or contrasts to the world-building in classics like 1984, Catch-22, Brave New World, or Day of the Triffids?
- Why do you think They disappeared from the canon? Carmen Maria Machado says ‘the world was not quite ready for They’ four decades ago – but is it ready now?