Reading guide for The American Lover by Rose Tremain

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The American Lover

by Rose Tremain

The American Lover by Rose Tremain
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  • First Published:
    Feb 2015, 240 pages
    Paperback:
    Jan 2016, 240 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Sharry Wright

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Reading Guide Questions Print Excerpt

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!

  1. In the title story, Beth, a once-famous author, disabled in a car accident and long abandoned by her lover, says, "I did have a beautiful life. It ended early, that's all." Do you agree with this statement? Do you think it's good that Beth sees her life that way? Does the theme of the briefness of life's beauty echo through other stories in the collection? How so?
  2. What is the effect of the framing device in the title story? How would the story of "The American Lover" be different if it wasn't framed by Beth and Rosalita's dialogue?
  3. Who is the true captive of the story "Captive," Owen or the dogs? What keeps Owen in his family's old house? What forces, besides the cold, bring about his and the dogs' disaster in the end?
  4. Compare and contrast the relationship between authors and their material—real life—as depicted in "The American Lover" and "Housekeeper." Do we empathize with Beth and with Daphne du Maurier for how they used Thaddeus and Mrs. Danowski, respectively?
  5. Ivan in "The Jester of Astapovo" and Mrs. Danowski in "Housekeeper" both share important moments in their lives with famed literary figures. What is the effect of our hearing about these figures from another perspective? What do you make of the servants depicted throughout the collection? What do we learn when we see the world through their eyes?
  6. The protagonists' relationship to time and memory play a large role in "Man in the Water" and "Smithy." How are they similar or different?
  7. In "Smithy," why does Smithy find the appearance of the mattress so disturbing? What does it have to do with aging and memory, life and death? How do you explain the moment of peace that Smithy finds with the mattress at the end?
  8. How would you characterize Fran's relationship with her mother in "BlackBerry Winter"? Does it subtly evolve from the beginning to the end the story? How and why?
  9. "Lucy and Gaston" is a story of grief and healing. How do the two title characters parallel one another? How do they help one another towards resolution?
  10. At the end of "The Closing Door," Marjorie wants to say to her daughter, Patience, "I don't know where I am. I'm miles from anywhere familiar to me. I don't know what I'm meant to do now." This line could just as easily be spoken by Patience herself. What parallels do you see between mother and daughter in this story? How do both characters develop over the course of the day depicted in the story?
  11. What is the effect of the use of the diary in "Twenty-First Century Juliet"? How might the story have been different if it had been written in the first person but without the structure of the diary?
  12. How would you characterize the voice of the narrator in "Twenty-First Century Juliet"? How do the humor and irony of the story serve to comment on the original Romeo and Juliet and on the mores of the twenty-first century?

Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of W.W. Norton & Company. Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.

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