Suggested Questions for Book Clubs
by James Tipton
--How does Annette change or grow as the story goes on? What does she realize about herself or about herself in relationship to her world?
--How is the young William different from the middle-aged William?
--What do Annette and William have in common? Why are they drawn to each other? If there were no war, could their relationship have worked?
--An editor at HarperCollins told me she thought that, besides the war, Dorothy is the main reason Annette and William don’t get together. What evidence is there for that in the text?
--What is the significance of Lucette for Annette? What are the three times she seems to come to Annette’s aid?
--A book critic in the Philadelphia Inquirer wrote that this novel “has two classic themes: time and loss.” Do you agree? What other universal themes do you find in it?
--William tells Annette that she is a poet (69, 70). How might she be one?
--William Wordsworth is famous for the profound appreciation of nature in his poetry. What evidence is there in the text that Annette also has such an appreciation?
--What drives Annette, again and again, to risk her life, even as a young mother?
--How might you characterize her relationship with Caroline?
--How is the marquis an important character in the second half of the book?
--How does Annette’s relationships with her family—father, mother, brother, sister and sister’s family-- affect her?
--How is the Count a metaphor in the story, as well as a character? What’s his importance for Annette?
--What’s Annette’s coming of age?
--What is the most significant trait of Annette’s character for you?
--What is the importance of Claudette? Of Jeanne Robin?
--What does this novel say about issues of civil liberties vs. national security, about social and political conformity vs. thinking for oneself and taking a stand?
--What are the real sources for the Reign of Terror, according to this book?
--What does William realize at the end of the novel? What does Annette realize?
--What is the significance of the “L’Envoi”? The metaphors of the burned chateau and of Pegasus?
--What is the relevance of this book today?
--What is the scene or chapter that touches your emotions the most and why?
--What new information about the French Revolution did you gain?
--USA Today describes Annette as being “both an authentic free spirit and believably 18th century.” How do you see that in the story?
--Before Annette goes on a dangerous mission, she says she closes her eyes rests “in a dark, luminous space (334).” What does that space do for her?
Questions for Discussion From HarperCollins, on-line Reader’s Group Guide:
1. Why does Annette’s appreciation of the themes and philosophies expressed in novels by Rousseau get her into trouble with her family and her community?
2. How does Annette’s first encounter with William Wordsworth hint at the playful nature of their relationship? If economic and political circumstances of the time had been different, do you think their relationship would have stood a greater chance of surviving?
3. How would you describe the role of Annette’s horse, La Rouge, in some of the most critical moments in the novel?
4. What accounts for Monsieur Leforges’s continued efforts to ruin Annette Vallon?
5. How is Annette’s giving birth to a child out of wedlock received by her mother and stepfather? How does her mother’s attempt to “undo” Annette’s mistake affect their relationship?
6. To what extent does the novel’s depiction of the French Revolution expose the extreme political uncertainties of the time experienced by both the aristocratic elite and the lower classes?
7. How does the count de Beauregard facilitate in Annette’s efforts to rescue citizens from the terror of the Revolution? How would you characterize their relationship?
8. How does the mysterious figure of Jean-Luc, the Marquis de La Roques, figure in Annette’s story?
9. What role does Dorothy Wordsworth play in the extended emotional and physical separation between her brother, William, and Annette Vallon?
10. Why do Annette’s resistance efforts as the “Fearless Chouanne of Blois” endear her to the French people?
Suggested Further Reading
A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens
The Terror, David Andress
Marie Antoinette, Antonia Fraser
Selected Poems, William Wordsworth
The Prelude (1805 Version), William Wordsworth
The Journals of Dorothy Wordsworth
Les Liaisons dangereuses, Choderlos de Laclos
The Chouans, Honoré de Balzac
The Three Musketeers, Alexander Dumas
Ten Favorite Works of Fiction (Chronological Order)
The Ramayana, translated by R.K. Narayan
The Odyssey, Homer, translated by Robert Fitzgerald
Beowulf, translated by Seamus Heaney
Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte
War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy, translated by Rosemary Edmonds
Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, James Joyce
To the Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf
Farewell to Arms, Ernest Hemingway
The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien
Five Favorite Books of Poetry
Leaves of Grass, Walt Whitman
The Prelude (1805 Version), William Wordsworth
The Cantos, Ezra Pound
Collected Shorter Poems of Kenneth Rexroth
No Nature, Gary Snyder
Ten Books Recently Read and Enjoyed
Call If You Need Me, Raymond Carver
About Love and Other Stories, Anton Chekov
Opened Ground, Seamus Heaney
New and Selected Poems, Volume II, Mary Oliver
Belongings, Sandra Gilbert
The Lady And The Unicorn, Tracy Chevalier
The Matchmaker of Perigord, Julia Stuart
The Fourth Bear, Jasper Fforde
I Capture the Castle, Dodie Smith
Death of a Gentle Lady, M.C. Beaton