Reading guide for Casa Rossa by Francesca Marciano

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Casa Rossa

by Francesca Marciano

Casa Rossa
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  • First Published:
    Aug 2002, 352 pages
    Paperback:
    Oct 2003, 352 pages

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Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!

  1. How do Marciano’s initial descriptions of Casa Rossa and the surrounding countryside [pp. 13, 15] create an emotional backdrop for the story that is about to unfold? What particular images or passages underscore the significance of the house in defining the relationships in the Strada family? How do the depictions of Stellario and the other villagers help to establish the family’s cultural and social values?

  2. Is Lorenzo’s "indecent" fresco of Renée [p. 22] more than a reflection of his fury at her betrayal and departure? What does it reveal about his character and his beliefs about the roles of men and women in a marriage? To what extent does Renée share his attitudes? What marks the turning point in their relationship?

  3. Why does Lorenzo describe Jeanne’s insistence on painting the house red as "Jeanne drowning Renée in a bloodbath" [p. 27]? What other interpretations of the name "Casa Rossa" emerge over the course of the novel?

  4. When she is a little girl, Alba first hears the rumors that her mother worked for the Germans [p. 40-41]. Why does she ask Jeanne, rather than her father, about the stories? How does the language Jeanne uses to describe Renée—"nobody knew the story of your mother, where she came from, what her real name was [p. 42]"—convey the way the family has chosen to view Renée and her place in the family history?

  5. How does the relationship between Alba and Oliviero mirror the relationship between Lorenzo and Renée? Compare, for example, the descriptions of the first meetings of each couple [pp. 10-13, 45] What is the significance of the men’s professions—a painter and a man who "makes stories" for a living—in attracting the women?

  6. Why does Alina decide to move to New York City? What does America represent to her?

  7. At the beginning of Casa Rossa, Alina says, "There is something that has been handed down from woman to woman in my family. I don’t know how to call it. A secret, an unspoken legacy—it needs to remain concealed, it’s something to be ashamed of" [p.14]. How does Alba choose to deal with the family’s secret shame? How does her choice affect her own life and happiness? What impact does it have on her daughters? Does Alina understand and accept the legacy by the end of the novel?

  8. The manipulation of memory and reconstruction of the past is a major theme of Casa Rossa. What parallels are there between the stories the Strada family constructs and the historical record the Italians have constructed about their participation in World War II and about the domestic terrorism that explodes in the 1980s?

  9. Is it essential for people to recognize and face up to mistakes and misdeeds committed by previous generations? Can denial—either personal or communal—serve a positive purpose?

Page numbers refer to the USA trade paperback edition and may vary in other editions.

Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Vintage. 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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