Compelling, complex and grounded in historic events, Kaz Cooke’s Ada carries all the trademarks of a book club hit. Travel with this extraordinary woman as she reveals the courage and wherewithal required to rise through adversity and make herself the star. Enter an all-but forgotten world of cunning clairvoyants and trained cockatoos, where the glamour of the stage gives way to the muck of the road. Here are some thought-starters to get your next book club meet-up up and running.
Discussion points and questions:
- Did it surprise you that Ada Delroy was once a household name? Will any of today’s celebrities still be known in 100 years?
- Why is it that women’s stories and voices from history are less well-known than men’s? Why does Ada’s story deserve to be told?
- If you had been a teenager with a job in a Lancashire mill factory, would you have taken the chance on a theatrical career, the way Ada did?
- Do you think she told Horrie the truth about her story?
- There are modern echoes of Ada’s shows in comedy, cabaret and clairvoyant acts. She says that, ‘If an audience believed in clairvoyance even after being shown how magic spiritualist tricks were done, then it was only polite to relieve them of a shilling apiece.’ Is it all good fun, or making money by exploiting the gullibility of an audience?
- Many of Ada’s loved ones, including children, died of diseases that vaccination now protects us from. And Ada herself died aged 46 of tuberculosis, with no financial support. How would life have been different then for people who got sick?
- ‘Skirt dancing was a way to marry well. Belle Bilton bagged the Earl of Clancarty. I don’t know who Letty married but she had gold taps in her flat.’ Is there a profession women go into now so they can ‘marry well’? Or has the whole idea disappeared?
- Do you think Ada had a good life? Was she ordinary, or extraordinary?
- ‘I’ll tell you what I love about being a theatrical. You feel special. A custodian of magic, a purveyor of glamour, a repository of mystery.’ Was Ada’s life really glamorous or was it all an illusion?