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Book Discussion Questions: The Pale Blue Eye by Louis Bayard

Cover of The Pale Blue EyeTitle: The Pale Blue Eye
Author: Louis Bayard
Page Count: 412 pages
Genre: Historical Mystery
Tone:  Plot-driven, literary, intricate

Summary from publisher:
At West Point Academy in 1830, the calm of an October evening is shattered by the discovery of a young cadet’s body swinging from a rope. The next morning, an even greater horror comes to light. Someone has removed the dead man’s heart. Augustus Landor—who acquired some renown in his years as a New York City police detective—is called in to discreetly investigate. It’s a baffling case Landor must pursue in secret, but he finds help from an unexpected ally—a moody, young cadet with a penchant for drink, two volumes of poetry to his name, and a murky past that changes from telling to telling named Edgar Allan Poe.

SPOILER WARNING:
These book discussion questions are highly detailed and will ruin plot points if you have not read the book.

1. Was Poe what you expected? Did his character fit with what you already knew? Did Poe’s character surprise you at all?

2. Did you ever suspect or doubt Poe?

3.Did you trust Poe’s accounts? Did he embellish? Was he objective?

4.What would the story have been without Poe? Why include him? Is it a gimmick? A distraction? Is the narrative better for his inclusion? Is the story more about the mystery/investigation or more about Poe?

5. Are Landor and Poe well-matched? Do they complement each other? Are they good or bad for each other?

6. Why do you think Landor and Poe “clicked” so quickly and well?

7. Why did West Point bring Landor in?  What does this reveal about the culture of West Point and about Landor? What was his style as an investigator?

8. In the development of the story, were you curious about Landor’s backstory? His private life? Was this changed at the end? In retrospect, were the clues laid?

9. Turning our attention to other characters, what did you make of Mr. Allan?

10. What do you make of each one of the Marquis family?

11. What is the significance of “the pale blue eye”? To whom does it first refer to? How about later in the story?

12. What is the allusion to Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart”?

13. Did the solution/revelation surprise you? Was this a satisfactory mystery?

14. What did you notice about the writing and the language? Were there times Poe/Bayard tried too hard, was too flowery, was too indirect, or did you appreciate the expressiveness, the images evoked?

15. Did the juxtaposition of language/poetry with the grisly mystery work or did it clash? Did the pacing seem uneven or not?

16. Did the historical details ring true? Were they well-chosen?

17. Is it believable that Poe would keep the secret? Do you believe he was behind Stoddard’s death?

18. Does Poe’s ordeal give him reason/foundation for rest of life’s writing?

19. Would Poe have approved of this story? Is it like him?

20. To what kind of reader would you recommend this book to?

Other Resources

Lit Lover’s Reading Guide
Biography of Edgar Allan Poe
West Point Military Academy history
Video of Louis Bayard describing his first two books

If you liked The Pale Blue Eye, try…

Cover of The Technologists Cover of Without Mercy Cover of Interpretation of Murder

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Technologists by Matthew Pearl
Without Mercy by Lisa Jackson
The Interpretation of Murder by Jed Rubenfeld

By Jenny, Readers' Advisor on October 22, 2014 Categories: Book Discussion Questions, Mysteries/Thrillers/Suspense

Staff Pick: Daily Rituals by Mason Currey

Photo of JennyDaily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey is filled with fascinating details on how famous creators scheduled their days, covering everything from how long they would work to their various quirks (Beethoven had a very unusual bathing routine). While the information may not be very useful, this little book is great for anyone interested in how people spend their time.

By Jenny, Readers' Advisor on October 21, 2014 Categories: Books, Nonfiction, Picks by Jenny, Staff Picks

Music: Danse Macabre on Favorite French Spectaculars

Favorite French Spectaculars CD cover‘Tis the time when the days shorten and the nights chill, when trees put on their autumn costumes and each step crackles like bonfire. Whether or not you are one to celebrate All Hallows Eve, the change in season calls for a little mood music, and Camille Saint-Saens’ classic “Danse Macabre” will spook your imagination. Featured on the recording Favorite French Spectaculars, with Leonard Bernstein conducting the New York Philharmonic, the piece was inspired by folk legends about the revels of the dead. The sharp summons of a solo violin is answered with a swirling symphonic waltz, and the two themes ebb and flow in playful, haunting harmony punctuated by clattering xylophone. Lilting winds give way to frantic dance, and you’ll find yourself bewitched by a fantastical music experience.

By Cathleen, Readers' Advisor on October 20, 2014 Categories: Music

New Arrivals: Mystery, Thriller, and Suspense

Every Friday the Library will bring you short lists of buzz-worthy books in a rotating series of popular genres.

For these and other fresh reads, stop by the second floor Fiction/AV/Teen desk. While there, talk to a Readers’ Advisor about new and old titles tailored to your taste.

New: Mystery Books

Cover of The Rest is SilenceCover of French Pastry MurderCover of Counterfeit Heiress

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Rest is Silence by James Benn
French Pastry Murder by Leslie Meier
The Counterfeit Heiress by Tasha Alexander

Cover of MaliceCover of the Monorgram MurdersCover of Rose Gold

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Malice by Keigo Higashnino
The Monogram Murders by Sophie Hannah
Rose Gold by Walter Mosley

New: Thrillers and Suspense

Cover of Virtue FallsCover of Broken MonstersCover of The Golem of Hollywood

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Virtue Falls by Christina Dodd
Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes
The Golem of Hollywood by Jonathan Kellerman and Jesse Kellerman

Cover of First ImpressionsCover of Kill My MotherCover of The Distance

First Impressions by Charlie Lovett
Kill My Mother by Jules Feiffer
The Distance by Helen Giltrow

By Jenny, Readers' Advisor on October 17, 2014 Categories: Books, Mysteries/Thrillers/Suspense, New Arrivals

Fiction: Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher

Cover of Dear Committee MembersTold through a series of letters, Julie Schumacher’s Dear Committee Members takes readers into the world of Jason Fitger, a wry English professor at Payne University, sending out letters of recommendation on behalf of his students and colleagues. Fitger’s recommendations mix bluntness with heart, ranging anywhere from: “His approach to problem solving is characterized by sullenness punctuated by occasional brief bouts of good judgment” to “He can read and write; he’s not unsightly; and he doesn’t appear to be addicted to illegal substances prior to 3:00 p.m.” Often passive-aggressive yet always eloquent, Fitger constantly overshares. His letters end up diving into past disagreements, the disintegration of Payne University’s English program, and his rocky writing career, all resulting in a hilarious window into one cynical academic’s mind.

By Jenny, Readers' Advisor on October 16, 2014 Categories: Books, Literary

Staff Pick: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Colleen staff picks photoRainbow Rowell has found success recently with novels like Eleanor & Park and Landline; however, I highly recommend her novel Fangirl. It centers on twin girls in their freshman year of college and how one twin is finding her social anxiety to be a bigger issue than she anticipated.

By Jenny, Readers' Advisor on October 14, 2014 Categories: Books, Picks by Colleen, Staff Picks

Audiobook: The End of the Affair by Graham Greene

End of the Affair audiobook coverActor Colin Firth reads the dreamy, reflective prose of Graham Greene in the 2013 Audiobook of the Year, The End of the Affair. A modern classic in its own right, the story examines the complexities of jagged emotions against the backdrop of a turbulent time. What happens when a seemingly passionate relationship is brought to an abrupt end? We experience it all through Maurice’s first-person narration, and his testimonial proves to be a one-man theatre showcase for Firth’s expert performance. As his character grapples with desire, jealousy, religion, and death, listeners realize that this is a story about so much more than two separated lovers.

By Cathleen, Readers' Advisor on October 13, 2014 Categories: Audiobooks, Literary

Introducing Our Newest Collection:

lac

 

potential2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Located behind the Fiction/AV/Teen Services desk on the second floor, between the Local DVD collection and Study Guides, this collection features authors currently living in or that have a strong connection to Mount Prospect or nearby communities. The collection is ever growing, so stop by and see what your fellow community members are writing! If you are looking for a local author not in the collection, stop by the Fiction/AV/Teen Services desk and we can help you get your hands on that title.

 

By Jenny, Readers' Advisor on October 10, 2014 Categories: Books, Fantasy & Sci-Fi, New Arrivals, Nonfiction, Romance

Fiction: The Actor and the Housewife by Shannon Hale

Cover of The Actor and the HousewifeFelix Callahan is a Hollywood heartthrob and married to a French model. Becky Jack is a Mormon housewife from Utah, pregnant with her fourth child and married to the love of her life. What do they have in common? On the surface nothing, but after a chance encounter, they instantly connect and are drawn together, quickly becoming best friends. Boundaries are tested, however, as Shannon Hale leads her readers into an exploration of the levels of faithfulness to your spouse and the capabilities, or incapability, of men and women being best friends. Weaving together thoughtful questions with witty banter, The Actor and the Housewife is perfect for anyone looking for a romantic comedy that gives its readers pause to think.

By Jenny, Readers' Advisor on October 9, 2014 Categories: Books, Humor

Book Discussion Questions: The Tiger’s Wife by Téa Obreht

Cover of The Tiger's WifeTitle: The Tiger’s Wife
Author: Téa Obreht
Page Count: 338 pages
Genre: Literary fiction
Tone:  Mystical, Haunting, Lyrical

Summary from publisher:
In a Balkan country mending from war, Natalia, a young doctor, is compelled to unravel the mysterious circumstances surrounding her beloved grandfather’s recent death. Searching for clues, she turns to his worn copy of The Jungle Book and the stories he told her of his encounters over the years with “the deathless man.” But most extraordinary of all is the story her grandfather never told her–the legend of the tiger’s wife.

 

SPOILER WARNING:
These book discussion questions are highly detailed and will ruin plot points if you have not read the book.

1. Did it bother you that there were no actual geographical or time period references?

2. How did the time-shifting aspects of the book affect your experience of the story?

3. Natalia and Zora were together on a mission trip when she finds out that her grandfather had died. Why doesn’t she tell Zora?

4. Zora is in a predicament. There is a malpractice case brought up against a man who is well connected in the medical community. Her dilemma is whether to “stick it to the man she despised for years and risking a career and reputation she was just beginning to build.” She tells Natalia that she wants to ask her grandfathers’ opinion. What advice do you think he would have given her? What would you do?

5. “Swear to me on your life that you didn’t know.” Why didn’t Natalia admit to her grandmother that she knew her grandfather was sick?

6. As Natalia and her grandfather are watching the elephant walk down the street in the middle of the night, Natalia said, “None of my friends will ever believe this.” Her grandfather replied, “The story of the war that belongs to everyone, but something like this, this is yours and belongs only to us.” What do you think he means by this?

7. There are so many references to The Jungle Book and Shere Khan in this novel. Do you see any parallels between Shere Khan of The Jungle Book and the tiger?

8. Why was Barba Ivan’s dog Bis painted by everyone?

9. Leandro understood that part of the tiger was Shere Khan but he has always felt some compassion for Shere Khan. Why do you think that is?

10. How did you feel reading the story from the tiger’s perspective?

11. There are many other animals in this story (parrot, dog, owl, bear). Does their presence have a deeper meaning?

12. Was Dure a good father?

13. Luko, Jovo and the blacksmith go out to kill the tiger after it was seen in the smokehouse. Why did Luko and Jovo tell everyone that the tiger killed the blacksmith and not admit that the gun backfired?

14. Natalia lived most of her life under either the threat of oncoming war or war itself. Would this state have an effect on the decisions one makes for them? How does the lack of a war then affect her?

15. Why do you think “Riki Tiki Tavi” is the deathless man’s favorite story in The Jungle Book?

16. The author said she intended to write the deathless man as more of a menacing character; instead, she felt, he ended up being almost comforting. Had she written that character in a different way, how do you think it would change the tone of the story?

17. Who is the deathless man? Does he exist?

18. Do you think Dr. Leandro, Natalia’s grandfather, is an honorable man? Why or why not?

19. Dr. Leandro placed a wager with the deathless man. Who do you think won? Should Dr. Leandro have paid his debt? If you think he lost the wager does his refusal to honor it change your opinion of him?

20. The second time Dr. Leandro saw the deathless man, there was a miracle by a waterfall. Dr. Leandro was by the waterfall to take care of the sick people that made their pilgrimage there. Gavran Gaile, a.k.a. the deathless man, was by the waterfall as well, and he was letting people know that their time was coming. “But that is what I do; that is my work to give Peace,” the deathless man had said. Do you think that knowing their time is coming gave the sick people peace?

21. Téa Obreht seems to present a character in a certain light, and then she offers background information. Did you find that the background information made you change your initial opinion of any of the characters? If so, which ones and why?

22. Luka takes the tiger’s wife to the smokehouse, ties her up, and leaves her there in hopes that the tiger will devour her. Two weeks later she shows up in town “with a fresh bright face and a smile that suggested something new about her.” What happened to Luka?

23. Why did the villagers hate the tiger’s wife? Why did mother Vera help the tiger’s wife?

24. What was your opinion of the apothecary?

25. Why did Natalia volunteer to take the “heart” to the crossroads and wait for the Mora?

26. What do you think happened to Dr. Leandro’s copy of The Jungle Book?

27. Was there any story or part of the book that particularly struck you?

Other Resources

Lit Lovers’ book discussion questions
Q&A video with Obreht Part One and Part Two
Video of PBS News Hour interview
Vanity Fair interview
Information on the breakup of Yugoslavia

If you liked The Tiger’s Wife, try…

Cover of A Constellation of Vital Phenomena Cover of Bel Canto Cover of The Red Garden

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra
Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
The Red Garden by Alice Hoffman

By Jenny, Readers' Advisor on October 8, 2014 Categories: Book Discussion Questions, Books, Literary