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Book clubs  •  13 July 2017


Charlatan book club notes

Enter the shadowy world of mesmerism with Catherine Jinks’ Charlatan.

Part mystery, part true crime, part comedy and part historical document, the multiple layers of Catherine Jinks’ Charlatan ensure rich pickings for a hearty book club discussion. Here are some questions to help get the inquest underway.


Discussion points and questions:

  • Charlatan could be categorised in a number of ways: true crime, social history, courtroom drama, legal studies. It paints quite a picture of late 19th century life in Australia and New Zealand. How different is this society to the one you imagined?
  • What do you think it was about this time that encouraged so many to take up public rhetoric and performance?
  • Can you imagine yourself attending a public talk or demonstration of this ilk?
  • Some cities immediately denounced Carr and shouted him out of town, others, such as Adelaide embraced him from the highest levels of society down. Why could that be?
  • Was Carr the equivalent of a contemporary reality TV or social media celebrity who enjoyed publicity and celebrity, or something more sinister, or authentic?
  • What do you believe: did Thomas Guthrie Carr mesmerise and then sexually assault Eliza Gray?

Feature Title

The story of a nineteenth century court case involving Thomas Guthrie Carr, a notorious, larger-than-life character who made his living as a mesmerist, phrenologist, public speaker and some say charlatan.
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