The Amateur Science of Love by Craig Sherborne: book club discussion questions

A reminder that our book club discussion questions contain spoilers.  If you’d like to read the book before continuing, see the catalogue.

Amatuer science of low cover

Sherborne says, in a Radio National interview, that he sees emotional violence as being the centre or interesting part of his plots. What kind of harm do Colin and Tilda do to each other?

Colin is, according to his author, so unwise because he is so young. Do you accept that this is an explanation for Colin’s actions?

On the cover of one edition of this book, Helen Garner writes: “All women with lingering illusions about the way men think should read this fast-moving, sharply focused, fantasy-shattering little thunderclap of a book.’ Is that a fair assessment of how men think?

In the interview, Sherborne has noted that the book is highly autobiographical. Does this change your interpretation of the text? For example, he says Tilda is based on his first wife, Alex. Does this blur the boundary between fiction and non-fiction?

Colin connects the breast and the womanhood of Tilda in a very direct way, so that when she loses a breast, he no longer sees her as a complete woman. Have you ever been a witness to involuntary body modification, or underwent it yourself? Is Sherborne right, here? Is the link between secondary sexual characteristics and self-image this strong?

How are love and sickness seen as parallels in this story?

Some additional questions from Julie:

This is a brutally honest account of a relationship through its highs and lows.  Did you find Sherbourne’s depiction of Colin and Tilda’s affair a believable interpretation of the male version of falling in love ?

How did you feel when Colin decided not to tell Tilda about the growth in her breast?  Were you convinced by his arguments that she would find out soon anyway or did you think Colin cowardly for not being honest with Tilda.

Was Colin’s decision to leave Tilda when she was sick and at a low point a brave or a callous one?  Most people would have decided to stay for the other’s sake despite the lack of love, but is it better to leave when the relationship has broken down?

Very little is revealed of Tilda’s feelings towards Colin.  From the novel did you feel the love was reciprocated? Who was using who?  Or was it a mutual benefit affair from the start?

The novel is told in the first person from Colin’s point of view.  So we have an explanation for Colin’s actions but none for Tilda’s.  Did this change how you felt about Tilda. Could you be sympathetic to her as a character without knowing her inner thoughts and motivations?

We often read fiction about love from a women’s point of view but rarely from a man’s.  Was it a shock to you to read how Colin manipulated Tilda and conspired to make her love him?  Is this how you imagine most mean see their relationships with women?  Do you now think that the women’s interpretation of a relationship  is often coloured by what she has heard and read about love rather than her real feelings and experiences?