Reading Group Guide
1. John Jakes acknowledges Charles Dickens to be "the greatest novelist in the English language" and in Savannah respectfully and artfully pays homage to him.
2. Can meaning be found in any of the names of the fictional characters in Savannah? Do you find that some are descriptive? Ironic?
3. Like some of Dickens's novels, Savannah has an alternative title, A Gift for Mr. Lincoln. Which title do you prefer? Can you think of other possible alternative titles?
4. In the 1860s, Dickens wrote contemporary fiction while Jakes writes historical fiction set in the same period. To the present-day reader, both writers are relating history. Describe each writer's advantages and disadvantages in telling his story from his perspective in time.
5. What characters in Savannah can be said to have a heritage from characters in Victorian literature? (i.e., the wrongfully accused back from prison, the wicked judge, etc.)
6. There are numerous acts of treachery in Savannah. By degrees of venality of their nature and their transgressions, how would you order the dastardly trio of Judge Drewgood, Professor Marcus, and Isaiah Fleeg? Explain your decision.
7. Conversely, there are numerous acts of bravery and goodness in this novel. How are the good deeds of Alpheus Winks, Stephen Hopewell, and William Tecumseh Sherman similar? How are they different? Each, it could be said, is rewarded for his actions. Are the rewards incremental to their actions?
8. Nearly every character in this novel undergoes significant change from the time the reader is first introduced to him or her to the time that character exits the novel. In your opinion, which character's journey was the most profound?
9. Jakes has created numerous colorful characters in Savannah with only brief appearances in the story. What characters would you have liked to have learned more about? Why?
10. At the conclusion of the novel, future happy endings are suggested, but not posited, for some of the characters. In your own sequel to Savannah, what might happen to the major characters in the novel as the war ends and the Reconstruction begins?