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The lady who chose this book is an elementary school librarian who always seems to have her finger on the pulse of what the hot trend in books is. Her book selections frequently wind up as movies, such as The Kite Runner, The Help and The Hunger Games.
Just because of the subject and my lack of experience with it, I expected this book to be like The Diary of Anne Frank. Pleasantly, it was not. It was nowhere near as confining and much more emotionally wrenching.
On a scale of 1 - 5
Sex - alludes, minor passes, an affair but nothing very descriptive
Religion - An abortion is tossed out as an option but the mom knows its not an option for her. Religion is not mentioned as a reason.
Gruesome - The subjects are horrific in and of themselves but the descriptions are mild.
Suspense - In the beginning there is quite a bit of intrigue trying to figure out who the un-named characters are. Once you get the names it just mellows into interest. At the end she tries to be suspenseful but its really rather transparent and predictable.
Morality - Take the holocaust out of the equation because that would blow the morality scale out of the water - aside from that a supporting character cheats on his wife, the main character is friends with a gay couple, a man and wife consider abortion due to their own age, family secrets, generously supporting financially someone who they are not remotely responsible for, sheltering a stranger in need, a downplayed suicide.
We've read several books that jumped between past and present (The Time Traveler's Wife, The 19th Wife) and others I've read on my own, like Diana Gabaldon, and typically several chapters occur in the past and then several in the present. But Ms. de Rosnay alternates with each chapter until a little more than halfway through the book when past and present converge and the remainder of the book occurs entirely in the present and ultimately skips a couple years before wrapping up. The first and second chapters are dated but beyond that is only a subtle font difference of the past being bolded. It was really a beautifully written coming together of past and present.
During the time I was reading this book I watched a movie called "Mississippi Massala". One quote I liked from it could apply to this book: Race is like recipes, handed down from generations. You have to decide what to eat and what to leave on your plate (or you'll starve).
There are a lot of references to French locales. If I had any sense at all of France I'm sure I would appreciate it.
Although there are some sensitive topics in this book - there is nothing that is so intense that I would think twice about selecting it. For example, a man cheats on his wife but even if one of my club members was experiencing that situation in real life, it wouldn't keep me from choosing this book. The way it is presented in the book it is not so terrible.
The story lines were interesting and mildly engaging. I wanted to keep reading and find out how things all worked out - but picking up the book was not a top priority in most of my days. If I spent five minutes a day with it that was a lot. At that rate it took me about three weeks to read. A more steady reader could easily finish it in a weekend.
The beginning was a bit frustrating because for quite a while the names of the characters in the past were not revealed. I kept trying to make a connection with the characters in current day which probably distracted me a bit from the story.
Question: Is there something people joke about in your life that it's too late to stop?
Question: Sarah had memories of a happy, involved mother. Why did Sarah's mother shut down and not stay involved with her child?
Question: Did you have hope for Michel and Julia?
Question: When Julia contemplated how Sarah must have been about Zoe's age when she saw her brother's body, was the author attempting a metaphor for the abortion?
Question: Why do you think Edouard's father felt the need to send money for Sarah? For ten years?
Question: What are some factors you would consider if choosing between a baby or a husband? (Consider your book club - this could be a sensitive subject and may be better not asked.)
Question: Were you surprised that Sarah's son did not know the story?
Question: Do you think Julia should have ever contacted the family? Any particular member or none at all?
Question: At what point did you know Julia would end up with William Rainsferd? At what point did you know the name of the baby?
On a believability scale with "1" the least and "10" the most:
Question: How believable was the back story?
Question: How believable was the current story?
Question: Would William have been better off if he had never heard the truth?
Decorate your table with keys and allow each guest to choose a key to take with them to remember the book.
Serve limoncellos like Herve at dinner when Julia met Guillaume.
Serve tiramisu like Zoe ordered int he Italian cafe when they met Sarah's son. This could go well with cappucino like the adults drank.
Serve Amadeus Cheesecake like William and Julia at in the New York cafe at the end.
Not really sure what this is - I searched for it and could only find Amadeus cookies which involved sugar cookies with pistachios and the cookie was half dipped in chocolate. So I figure a New York style chocolate cheesecake might be close. Maybe you could finely chop some pistachios and sprinkle on top.