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Reading guide for The Winter Soldier by Daniel Mason

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The Winter Soldier

by Daniel Mason

The Winter Soldier by Daniel Mason X
The Winter Soldier by Daniel Mason
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  • First Published:
    Sep 2018, 336 pages

    Sep 2019, 336 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Poornima Apte
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Reading Guide Questions Print Excerpt

Please be aware that this discussion guide will contain spoilers!

  1. The Winter Soldier is a story of World War I from the perspective of a citizen of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.  Are you familiar with other novels where WWI is portrayed from this point-of-view, and if so, which?  Does this perspective make the story feel different from those told from the Allied side, and if so, how?
  2. What surprised you about the novel? Did you learn anything new from it?
  3. Lucius was passionate about becoming a doctor, but felt the origin of his interest was a mystery.  Based on the novel's depiction of his childhood, do you have any insight as to where his fascination may have had its genesis?  Have you ever been absorbed by a career or hobby and if so, do you know where your interest arose?
  4. Lucius "knew [his classmates] all had come to medicine for its promise of social mobility," but it was a step down from his own social class.  Do you believe this is true today?  Do some professions offer greater social status, and do some who enter them do so solely for that purpose?  
  5. In the early and latter chapters of the novel, Lucius displays a profound lack of social grace, to the extent that he writes lists of "chatting topics" to help him when spontaneity eludes him.  Do you think people can learn to become proficient at small-talk? Did you feel his discomfort when members of society helped or hurt him, and in what way?
  6. Lucius stuttered as a boy.  What did you think of his parents' attempted cures?  Do we invoke similarly unproven remedies today for this or other conditions?
  7. The author writes that "At first, Lucius did not appreciate the opportunity of war…He did not understand the patriotism of his classmates, so drunk with a sense of destiny…" We generally regard war as an evil, but can it provide opportunities for some?  How are wars met today?  Do you see similar enthusiasm?  Why do you suppose some find the idea of going to war glamorous?
  8. Lucius's best friend in school was Feuermann.  Why do you imagine the author made the decision to make this character Jewish?  Did you find parallels between the two and their families?  How about differences?
  9. What do you feel drew Lucius to Margarete?
  10. Why do you suppose both Lucius and Margarete lied about their backgrounds to each other?
  11. Why do you think Margarete pretended to be a nun? When did you begin to suspect that she had never taken vows?
  12. The author inserts one lengthy side story told by the hospital's orderlies about Zmudowski and the Russian stamps.  Why do you think he added this tale? What was he trying to say by its inclusion?
  13. Many soldiers arrived at the hospital with what was diagnosed as "nervous shock."  Later it would become known as "shell-shock," and these days we refer to it as PTSD.  What do you know about this condition?  Did the book shed any light on it for you?  What do you think of the cures for it that were attempted in the early 20th century?  How well or poorly do you think we handle PTSD cases today?
  14. Why do you suppose Lucius was so intrigued by Horvath's condition, in particular? Why were he and the staff so invested in Horvath's recovery?
  15. The snow is referred to as the "soldier's curse and the soldier's friend."  What did the author mean by this? Why do you think he chose to set much of the in-depth action during the cold weather?
  16. When Margarete and Lucius are relocating recovering patients to different hospitals, Margarete wants to send Horvath but Lucius wants him to stay.  Why do you think they disagree about his recovery?  Whose argument did you back at the time, before you became aware of the repercussions of this decision?
  17. What were the ramifications of Horvath's torture? Do you feel what happened to Horvath was Lucius's fault? How did this event impact his relationship with Margarete? Do you believe it changed Margarete, and if so, how?  In what ways did you see Horvath's fate impacting how Lucius treated other cases?
  18. Why do you think Margarete cried and ran away when Lucius proposed to her?
  19. Why do you suppose Lucius was so reluctant to return to the comforts of Vienna, and why did he reenlist when he didn't need to?
  20. Lucius's father was also a war veteran, and had been wounded. In what ways did you find Lucius's service was the same, and in which ways different?  Why do you sense his father only started to show him love after he returned from the war? Do you feel his father understood that he was in some way damaged, even though he wasn't physically wounded?
  21. Lucius's mother insists he marry.  Why do you think she was so intent that he do so, and why did he agree? For what reason did she choose Natasza for him, and do you think she anticipated the result?
  22. Why do you feel Lucius couldn't talk to anyone about Horvath, in spite of an intense desire to do so?
  23. On the train to Lwow, a young mother, at great peril to herself, tries to protect Lucius from being arrested as an enemy sympathizer. The other women in the compartment do not betray him either.  Why do you believe they were moved to keep him safe?
  24. After he and Margarete are parted, Lucius spends a great deal of effort over the next two years trying to find her. Why do you think he went to such unusual lengths? Do you suppose the spell is broken after he finds her, or do you sense he'll be obsessed with her for the rest of his life, unable to move on?

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  Medicine and World War I

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