Discussion Guide: The Horse Dancer

1. Sarah and Natasha come from different classes. The problems they face may vary, but both are struggling to act nobly. Is it harder to do the right thing from a lower-class or upper-class position? How does this book confirm or disprove that?  

2. How do you think Sarah’s life would be different if she would have listened to her headmaster and concentrated on her studies instead of Boo? Some people would say that formal education is the most crucial part of an adolescent’s life. How is that true for Sarah? 

3. When Sarah is trying to convince Thom to take her and Boo to France, she says “It was as if he could see everything, her dishonesty, her vulnerability, not in the way Maltese Sal had, as if he was stripping away every bit of her that was worth something, but with a kind of sympathy. It was worse” (p. 342). Why, for Sarah, is having Thom see her cry worse than her encounter with Maltese Sal?

4. When Sarah is talking to Thom about Le Cadre Noir she says, “Papa always said that when he came to Le Cadre Noir it was the first time in his life he had felt understood. Like there were just a few other people in the world who spoke his language and all of them lived in that one place” (p. 353). Is there a place for you that is like this? If there is, describe it. If there isn’t, describe what it would be like.

5. What makes it possible for people who fall out of love to fall back in love again? What made it possible for Natasha and Mac?

6. What was your reaction to the formal and disciplined way that Henri raised Sarah? In what ways did this type of upbringing help her? In what ways may it have hindered her?

7. At one point Sarah says “You know like I do that sometimes telling the truth makes things worse, not better” (p. 430). Do you find this to be accurate? How has it been true for the characters in this book? How has it not been true?