Tag: Discussion Questions

Feb 09

The Fellowship of the Worms: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Book Club, World War II 12

Happy Monday Bookworms!

smarty-mcwordypants-199x300It’s time that time again, y’all! The Fellowship of the Worms is in session! Today we’re going to be chewing on the brain food that is All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. WARNING: We will be discussing the WHOLE book. This will no doubt include SPOILERS. If you did not read the book and would like to participate, pick up a copy of All the Light We Cannot See and give it a read. This post will be here waiting for you when you finish. Now that the particulars are out of the way, I’ll remind you of the premise here. I’ll pose questions in bold and answer them in regular type.  If you don’t want your opinions influenced by my rantings, stick to the bold first. Feel free to answer questions in the comments, or if you’re so inclined, leave a comment linking to your review or discussion of All the Light We Cannot See on your own blog! I fully encourage shameless self promotion, so don’t hesitate to get your link on. Let’s do this!

1. Marie-Laure is stricken blind at a young age. Despite her disability, she goes on to do some pretty amazing things. Were there any instances in Marie-Laure’s experiences that surprised you?

I am amazed at the way the human mind compensates for a compromised sense. Marie-Laure’s acute senses of smell and hearing were impressive. Of course, I think she’d have been in much rougher shape were it not for her AMAZING father. Oh that Daniel LeBlanc! Creating a miniature model of their neighborhood in Paris? Teaching Marie-Laure to navigate? The lengths he went to protect her? Their relationship was so incredibly sweet.

2. Werner has, without question, a brilliant mind. Unfortunately, being raised an orphan he is afforded few opportunities. When he is accepted into the prestigious Nazi school, his sister Jutta is opposed to his attending. What would you have done in Werner’s shoes?

Oh goodness, how I felt for Werner! And for Jutta! Seriously, there were so few options. Could Werner have declined the invitation to join the school? Maybe. Without consequences? That’s hard to say. I mean, did you SEE what happened to Frederick? The Nazi regime was really effing scary. I’d like to think I’d be noble and amazing, but I think I’d have taken Werner’s route. He had the best of intentions to make a difference from the inside, but it proved impossible. Luckily he managed to hold on to his humanity in the end, poor kid.

3. When Etienne and Marie-Laure are working for the resistance and broadcastingallthelightwecannotsee coded messages, Etienne frets that his actions will certainly get people killed. Marie-Laure tries to console him by telling him that they’re “the good guys.” Etienne expresses that he hopes so. Do you think there are ever any clear “good guys” or “bad guys” in war?

Ooooh, Katie, GOOD QUESTION. There’s nobody who would argue that the Nazi regime was a good thing. (Well, nobody who isn’t horrible on a fundamental level.) However. How many Werners were there in that army? How many innocent civilians would be caught in the crossfire? How many Allied soldiers did awful things of their own accord? War is such a big nightmarish sticky mess. Could we maybe stop having them already?! Gah!

4. That doggone Sea of Flames! It’s got quite the tale attached to it, what with its curse and all. A number of people believe this to be true, Von Rumpel among them. In fact, it’s almost as though the curse of the diamond started the whole dang war. Do you think it was cursed and/or brought protection to the one who held it?

Yeah I’m not big on superstitions, but wouldn’t it be nice to blame WWII on an evil diamond? I think Von Rumpel’s buy in was based directly on the fact that he was dying of cancer and desperate. You can’t deny that Marie-Laure, despite some super dangerous extra-curriculars survived. I doubt that Doerr really meant for the reader to believe a supernatural stone had all kinds of power, but it provided a nice narrative element.

5. Do you think if Werner hadn’t succumbed to illness, he and Marie-Laure might have had a future together?

Hi, I’m Katie and I want people to be happy! It would have ruined the book and I’d have hated it for having a cheeseball ending, but there’s a significant part of me that REALLY wanted Werner and Marie-Laure to have a happily ever after! They could move to Switzerland and she could have studied things and he could have made scientific breakthroughs and had babies. Jutta and Etienne could have lived with them in their modest ski chalet and they could collectively have worked to heal all their various broken psyches. Siiiiiiiiigh.

Sound off, Bookworms! I want to know your what you thought of All the Light We Cannot See. Tackle some of the questions in the comments, or if you’ve written a post on your own blog (discussion or review, anything goes!) LINK IT UP! 

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Mar 31

The Fellowship of the Worms: The House Girl

Art, Book Club, Historical Fiction 8

Welcome, Bookworms!

smarty-mcwordypants-199x300It’s that time again. The Fellowship of the Worms is now in session! This month’s selection was The House Girl by Tara Conklin. WARNING: We will be discussing the WHOLE book. This will no doubt include SPOILERS. If you did not read the book and would like to participate, pick up a copy of The House Girl and give it a read. This post will be here waiting for you when you finish. Now that the particulars are out of the way, I’ll remind you of the premise here. I’ll pose questions in bold and answer them in regular type.  If you don’t want your opinions influenced by my rantings, stick to the bold first. Feel free to answer them in the comments, or if you’re so inclined, on your own blog. A linky list will be provided at the end of this post for anybody who has reviewed The House Girl on their own blog, even if it has nothing to do with the following discussion questions. Don’t be shy, please link up!

1. The House Girl is told in a dual narrative, switching back and forth between Lina in modern day NYC and Josephine in 1852 Virginia. In addition to the two major narrators, there are a number of additional characters advancing the story through letters. Did you enjoy the multiple perspectives? Did you find it added or detracted from the story Conklin was trying to tell? 

Personally, I dig the dual (or more) narrative. I like being able to get inside the heads of multiple characters. I thought Conklin did a great job in fleshing out Josephine and Lina’s personalities. Though, if I could lodge one small complaint, it’s that I couldn’t get inside the head of Lu Anne Bell. What a crazy contradiction SHE was. I’m always interested in how people rationalize cruelties to themselves. Given what Lu Anne clearly knew about her husband’s non-consensual relationships with his female slaves, it’s no wonder she seemed to yo-yo between compassion and jealousy when dealing with Josephine.

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2. Do you think that Lu Anne intentionally passed off Josephine’s art work as her own? Do you think she would have done things differently had she known the notoriety the art would eventually garner? 

Lu Anne was a complicated character, I’m a little obsessed with her, since I was thwarted in my desire to get inside her head. The Pollyanna in me doesn’t think that Lu Anne had any idea that the artwork she and Josephine (okay, mostly Josephine) created was going to become famous. Of course, as much as I’d LIKE to think that Lu Anne would have taken steps to ensure proper credit was given had she known what was going to become of the art, I doubt she would have changed her actions. The product of her shameful environment, that one.

3. Lina is the daughter of the artsiest artists in all the land, and yet she chose to pursue a career in law. What in her upbringing to you think helped spur her decision to choose a career so based in reason? 

Lina’s upbringing was never quite stable. When it was just Lina and Oscar, their existence always seemed precarious. I think Lina’s choice of career was based in part on the desire to have some financial security (I can’t blame her for that!) I also think there was an element of rebellion there… She sort of goes Alex P. Keaton and rebels against her artsy upbringing by going corporate. (If you’re too young to get my Family Ties joke, get thee to the CBS.com. Full episodes!)

4. As a house slave, Josephine walks a lonely road. How does her unique status contribute to her desire to run? 

Poor Josephine! Because she was tasked with domestic duties, she was separated from the field workers. However, being in the house didn’t mean that she was a part of the family- she was still a slave, for heaven’s sake. She was stuck in this crappy middle ground trying to muddle through. Yes, she had relationships with Lottie and a few others, but Josephine was still separate. Oh, yeah. And being in the house only made it easier for her master to make his nocturnal visits- that sure as heck wasn’t a perk. Loneliness, prolonged sexual abuse, and, uh, being property? Yep. Seems like enough motivation to get out of Dodge to me!

5. How did you feel when Oscar dropped the bombshell about what really happened to Lina’s mother Grace?

What I want to know is how this was even possible. I know Grace told Oscar to tell everyone she’d died, but COME ON. It can’t be that easy to disappear! Wouldn’t people be suspicious that there was no funeral or memorial service? Maybe artsy people don’t do funerals? The whole thing seemed really weird to me. I’m glad Oscar came clean and gave Lina her mom’s contact information, but sheesh! What would you even SAY to your fake dead mother?! I can’t even.

Tell me your thoughts, Bookworms! How did you feel about The House GirlPlease link up if you’re so inclined! 

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