Check It Out Category: Historical Fiction

Book Discussion Questions: The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

Shadow of the Wind book cover

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

Title: The Shadow of the Wind
Author: Carlos Ruiz Zafón
Page Count: 486
Genre: Historical fiction
Tone: Literary, intricate, mysterious

Questions composed by MPPL Staff

The Library is happy to share these original questions for your use. If reproducing, please credit with the following statement:  2013 Mount Prospect Public Library. All rights reserved. Used with Permission.

1. What did you think of the Cemetery of Forgotten Books?  Would you like to explore such a place?

2. Before you began the book, did you have any expectations?  How did this meet, exceed, or disappoint them?

3. It is said that each of us reads a different book, because we all bring our own experiences and preconceptions and thoughts to our reading. What book did you read? There’s so much to absorb in this book; what stands out to you?

a. The love story (-ies)?
b. The mystery of Julian Carax?
c. The Javert-like Inspector Fumero?
d. Other?

4. “Books are mirrors: you only see in them what you already have inside you.” (p. 215) Do you agree? In what ways was this your experience while reading The Shadow of the Wind?

5. Why do you think the novel (and the fictional novel by Julian Carax) is called The Shadow of the Wind?

6. The character of Fermin plays many roles in the course of the story. What are they? How does he impact the plot?

7. In what ways are Daniel and Fermin good for each other?

8. What roles do Daniel’s parents play in the story?

9. What are some of the significant turning points in the book?

10. How did Daniel’s first encounter with Lain Coubert affect him? What did you make of this shadowy character? At what point did you realize his true identity?

11. What is the significance of Victor Hugo’s Mont Blanc pen?

12. How would you characterize Zafon’s use of language?

13. How are women portrayed in the book?

14. How does Daniel’s life begin to parallel Carax’s? How did you feel about this?

a. Though they follow very similar trajectories, one ends in tragedy and the other in happiness. What are the differences that allow Daniel to avoid tragedy?
b. What is the relationship between Carax and Daniel?

15. Did Julian deserve for Miguel and Nuria to lay down their lives for him?

16. How does the setting – Spain under Franco – affect the story? Could the story have taken place somewhere other than Barcelona?

17. How are the sins of the fathers and mothers visited upon different characters?

18. Who would you say is the pivot around which the events of the story revolve: Carax or Fumero?

19. How would you describe the tone of The Shadow of the Wind?

20. How do suspense and humor work together in the novel? Does the existence of one reduce the impact of the other, or is the book enhanced by the use of both?

21. What is the view of evil within the book as a whole? What does it see as evil? What does it see as the solution to evil?

22. Which values and perspectives are encouraged by this book? Which does it discourage?

23. Did the story keep your interest throughout? Did your feelings about it change as you read it?

24. What did you think of the ending, in which Daniel introduces his son Julian to the Cemetery?

25. What are some criticisms of the book? Why might someone not like it?

Other Resources

Reading Group Guide discussion questions
Telegraph interview with Carlos Ruiz Zafón
Carlos Ruiz Zafón on bookstores closing
Wikipedia entry on the Spanish Civil War

If you liked The Shadow of the Wind, try…

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke
The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson
The Club Dumas by Arturo Pérez-Reverte

Jonathan Strange and mr. norrell book cover     the Gargoyle book cover

 

Book Discussion Questions: Clara and Mr. Tiffany by Susan Vreeland

Clara and Mr. Tiffany book coverSPOILER WARNING: These book discussion questions are highly detailed and will ruin plot points, if you have not read the book.

Title: Clara and Mr. Tiffany
Author: Susan Vreeland
Page Count: 405
Genre: Historical Fiction
Tone: Literary, lush

Questions composed by MPPL Staff

The Library is happy to share these original questions for your use. If reproducing, please credit with the following statement:  2013 Mount Prospect Public Library. All rights reserved. Used with Permission.

1. Do you think Vreeland accurately portrayed the Gilded Age?

2. What do you think it would have been like to have lived during the Gilded Age as a woman? What about as a man?

3. How does New York City come across in Clara and Mr. Tiffany? Does it become another character in the novel? Why or why not?

4. How many men did Clara love? Who were they? What caused her to be attracted to each one? Were there any problems that sprouted from her love life?

5. What were Clara’s personal goals? Were they similar goals to other ladies of her era? Did she achieve them?

6. What activities brought Clara enjoyment and made her feel free and full of life? What things did she detest?

7. Was Clara a likeable character? Did you want to see her succeed? If you could change something about her circumstances, what would it be?

8. What other characters struck you? Was there anyone you didn’t like?

9. What are some of the social contrasts that appear in Clara and Mr. Tiffany? How do these contrasts shape Clara’s character?

10. In what ways was Clara a progressive woman? How did her politics affect her life?

11. What kind of experience did Clara have at her first Tiffany Ball? (Chapter 9) Who did she go with? What did she learn?

12. How do Clara and Alice describe Tiffany? (Chapter 27) What are Clara’s true feelings for Mr. Tiffany?

13. Was Mr. Tiffany a progressive man? Why or why not? Did he have any conservative leanings?

14. How would you describe Louis Tiffany? Was he a good artist? Was he a good man?

15. Do you think that Clara should have continued working at Tiffany Studios? Why or why not?

16. What place was Edwin moved by? Why? What were iconic places and objects of the Gilded Age?

17. Susan Vreeland is described as a lush and lyrical writer. Can you think of any examples of when she made you feel immersed in a scene or wading in the poetry of her prose?

18. Has anyone read any other books by Vreeland? Was this book similar or different to her other novels? Would you read more by her?

19. Do you think things have changed for women in the arts?

20. Who would you recommend this book to? Why?

Other Resources

Susan Vreeland’s website
Vreeland’s book discussion questions
NPR interviews Susan Vreeland
Susan Vreeland on Beauty and the Book
Susan Vreeland at Warwick’s Books

Stop by the Reference Desk for nonfiction books and online resources on Louis Comfort Tiffany and company.

If you liked Clara and Mr. Tiffany, try…

Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier
Stealing Athena by Karen Essex
Loving Frank by Nancy Horan

Remarkable Creatures book cover     Stealing Athena book coverLoving Frank book cover

Book Discussion Questions: Mudbound by Hillary Jordan

Mudbound book cover

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

Title: Mudbound
Author: Hillary Jordan
Page Count: 328
Genre: Historical Fiction
Tone: Compelling, Haunting, Thought-provoking

Questions composed by MPPL Staff

The Library is happy to share these original questions for your use. If reproducing, please credit with the following statement:  2013 Mount Prospect Public Library. All rights reserved. Used with Permission.

1.    Whose point of view (P.O.V.) was most interesting to read?

2.    Was there a main character in this book?

3.    What was the main story?

4.    Whose story did you want more of?

5.    Would this book be different if you got to hear Pappy’s story from his P.O.V.?

6.    What did you think of the love affair between Jamie and Laura?

7.    What do you think that act meant to Jamie? Do you think it meant something different to Laura?

8.    Did you want their relationship to last?

9.    Was the sex scene written well?

10.    Laura realizes that she doesn’t truly love Jamie. Why?

11.    What did you think of the relationship between Laura and Henry?

12.    What about between Florence and Hap?

13.    Who had more equal footing in their relationship, Laura or Florence? Why?

14.    Given the times, did Laura have a choice if she was going to move to the country or not?

15.    Would you have moved?

16.    What did it say about Henry that he didn’t even tell Laura he bought a farm?

17.    Do you think Henry noticed Pappy’s bickering, unhappiness and how Laura felt around him?

18.    Who had the better relationship with their father, Henry or Jamie? Why?

19.    Do you think Pappy loves his sons? How can you tell?

20.    When the children get sick at the farm, Henry gets Florence to nurse them. What is his reaction when she gets in the front of the truck with him?

21.    Does being a racist make you a bad person?

22.    Is there such thing as being “only a little racist”?

23.    Do you think Laura would have considered herself a racist?

24.    Would Florence have considered Laura a racist?

25.    Why do you think Laura was more attractive and interesting to her family once she “had a man”?

26.    What was your reaction to when Ronsel came home with enough money to buy his parents a new mule?

27.    What was Henry and Laura’s reaction?

28.    There is strong foreshadowing in Mudbound, did you mind? Ex:  Jamie talks about Ronsel’s fate being sealed on page 212. Do you mind knowing that something awful is about to happen?

29.    Why did the men “only” cut out Ronsel’s tongue?

30.    Is there symbolism in Ronsel’s tongue being cut out? What does it mean?

31.    Why did Jamie kill his father?

32.    Do you think Jamie would’ve been a different person is he was able to talk about the traumas he experienced during the war?

33.    Is there any other way that you would have killed Pappy?

34.    What do you think happens to Ronsel?

35.    What about Jamie?

36.    Do you think Henry and Laura go on to live happy lives?

37.    How can authors writing outside of their own culture sometimes be problematic? (Re: cultural appropriation)

38.    Mudbound won the Bellwether Prize for Fiction, which awards $25,000 to a work of socially responsible literature that gives support to social change. How do you think Jordan’s book did this?

39.    Is the setting a character in this book?

40.    Do you think that this story could have been told in a different, non-southern setting?

Other Resources:

Hillary Jordan’s website
Bellwether Prize website
Lit Lovers’ book discussion guide
NPR interview with Hillary Jordan
Goodreads reviews (watch out for spoilers)
Hillary Jordan author talk

If you liked Mudbound, try…

Bloodroot by Amy Greene
The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom
Sula by Toni Morrison

Bloodroot book cover      the Kitchen House book cover     Sula book cover