Tag Archives: Marriage

Among the Ten Thousand Things by Julia Pierpont ~ Book Review & Discussion Guide

 

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Pages: 336

Published: July 7, 2015

Format:  E-book

 

 

 

 

This debut novel by Julia Pierpont starts off with fireworks.  I found the premise very intriguing:  a box intended for Deb from the ex-mistress of her husband full of every communication  between them is intercepted by her children.  Deb, who had been able to move on with the status quo since discovering her husband’s affair many months prior, now has to rethink everything in light of her children (ages 11 and 15) knowing about her husband’s affair.

This novel is divided into 4 parts.  Part one is the fireworks.  Part two is the camera zooming out and giving a panoramic view of life to come.  Parts 3 and 4 zoom back in again. It is an interesting book that examines the effect of the affair on the husband, wife and the children.  Everyone is struggling in their own ways with the knowledge, the changes in the family dynamic, and all the emotions they are experiencing.  I particularly liked how Kay, the 11 year old daughter, imposed what she knew of the affair into her own rewriting of Seinfeld episodes.  I thought it was interesting how Simon related to the Fountainhead, and how much this bothered his mother.

It is a compelling read, but also a slow moving read for the second half of the book, with characters that are trying their best to weather through very difficult times.  I found myself after the first part wishing for more action, less indecision and vacancy.  I felt like I was lost in the calm after the storm, and read faster and faster as the book went on, really just trying to finish.  Overall, I felt this was a well-written and very polished, intelligent book by an author  from whom I think we will see much more to come.  However, is a difficult book to fully “enjoy” since it deals with so much unhappiness and frustration, which is why I think the ratings for this book are all over the map.  The relationships are all fraught with sadness, loneliness, disappointment, and unfulfillment. For the writing and honesty displayed, I give it images-2, but for my overall “enjoyment” I would give it 2star.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How does Jack’s infidelity affect their marriage?
  2. How does this change once the children learn of the infidelity?
  3. How do Kay and Simon initially feel toward their parents about the infidelity?  How does this change as the book progresses?
  4. How does Deb envision that her children view her in this situation?
  5. Compare and contrast Deb and Jack’s relationships with their mothers.
  6. How does Simon relate to the Fountainhead?
  7. Explain the references comparing Simon to his father.
  8. How is Simon’s relationship with Teagan important in the context of the novel?
  9. Compare and contrast Deb and Jack’s love and devotion to their respective art.
  10. Do you like Jack?  Why or why not?  Do you like Deb?  Why or why not?
  11. How does it shape your opinion of the characters that Jack and Deb initially were together through infidelity?
  12. How does Simon and Kay’s relationship shift during this book?

NY Times Review

Julia Pierpont’s website

Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff ~ Book Review & Discussion Guide

 

61F+t-ywhCL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_Published: September 15, 2015

Pages: 400

Awards: National Book Award Finalist (2015), Kirkus Prize Nominee for Fiction (Finalist) (2015), Amazon’s 2015 Best Book of the Year

Format:  E-book

 

 

Fates and Furies unfolds and reveals itself like a piece of art.  It is so multi-layered, deeply complex and philosophical that it left me spellbound, awed, & utterly impressed with this author.  It is a sexy, brilliant, exquisitely written novel that pivots around the intensely bright love and marriage between two people, who seem so different, but love each other so fiercely.  The husband, Lotto, is exuberant and narcissistic, but alternates between extreme highs and lows in his moods: between mania, with extreme passion and love for others and creativity; and depression with suicidal thoughts.  The wife, Mathilde, is so loving and devoted to her husband, but also has a cold, calculating, manipulative side that she conceals.  There are striking differences between the two:  he is always bathed in light and she in darkness.

Appearances can be deceptive in his book.  Mathilde feels that she is evil to her core, which stems from her childhood memory of being implicated at the age of 4 in the death of her younger brother.  Lotto, however, saw kindness at the very core of Mathilde.    There are so many twists and turns in this novel, making it an exciting read, one that keeps you thinking, guessing, and questioning what you know about the characters and people in general.  It is told in two parts:  the first, “the fates”, is from Lotto’s perspective and the second, “the furies” is Mathilde’s perspective.  The two halves read very differently complimenting the protagonist whose story it is.  Everyone is bathed in warmth and light from Lotto’s perspective and you begin the see the evil hidden side of the characters revealed when reading Mathilde’s story.  You also realize how she is the bedrock of his success, his glory, his glamorous life.

Lauren Groff’s command of the English language (as well as French) is incredible.  The inlaid humor, wordplay,  many layers of imagery, stories within stories,  parallel characters, and juxtapositions of character traits are fascinating.  It was a pure delight to read.  I recommend this book to anyone who loves high quality literature.  All the pieces come together perfectly like a puzzle, but it is never trite.  images  I also love the autobiographical element:  in the afterward the author speaks to how she told her friend that she would marry her now husband of many years after her first glimpse of him.

While reading the first half of the book, I keep being reminded of The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides which was a book about a couple who marries right out of college.  It is revealed that he is bipolar in the course of getting to know him.

Discussion Questions:

  1.  How did you feel about Antoinette sending Lotto off to boarding school?
  2. There are several suicides that occur within this novel.  What do you think their significance is?
  3. Chollie accuses Mathilde of being the “predator” and Lotto, the “prey” in their relationship.  What do you think he means by this?  Do you agree?  Is it the reverse as Lotto suggests?
  4. What do you make of Antoinette’s transformation from beautiful mermaid to “sucker fish gobblemouthing the glass?”  What has caused her to change so?  Why is she always in an aquarium?
  5. Why do you think that Lotto thinks back to his relationship with Gwennie on his way to see Leo?
  6. Did you think Lotto was a misogynist when regarding his comments about the difference between genders?  Why do you think that Mathilde walked out?
  7. Why do you think Mathilde did not want to have children?
  8. If Lotto and Mathilde had children, how do you imagine it would have affected their marriage and love for each other?
  9. Why did Chollie never tell Lotto that Gwennie’s death was a suicide?
  10. Mathilde thinks that by becoming a wife she became invisible.  Is this what she wanted?
  11. When Mathilde moves to the United States as a young girl, she changes her name.  Is she pretending to be someone else from that point forward?  Why else might she be changing her name?
  12. How do you feel the plays add or detract from the novel?
  13. Why would Land steal “The Springs” manuscript?  What was it about that play that spoke to him?
  14. Is Mathilde a “pathological truth-teller”  as Lotto accuses her?
  15. What do you make of the letters exchanged between Mathilde and Antoinette?
  16. Why do you think Phoebe Delmar finally comes around to writing a good review of one of Lotto’s plays?
  17. Do you think that Mathilde maliciously tripped her brother to his death down the stairs as has been told to her all her life or is her more buried vision of the story the truth?  Do you believe that a 4 year old can be that intentionally evil?
  18. What do you suppose the author’s view of marriage is?

Lauren Groff’s website

Review published by The New Yorker magazine

Discussion Questions by LitLovers