Reading Guide Questions
Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
- Do you think Rose is a reliable or unreliable narrator? Why? If you did question her veracity, at what point in the novel did you begin to do so?
- Why is Rose so captivated by Odalie, someone she wholly disapproves of initially?
- Through Odalie, Rose gains entry into a world she's never seen before, one filled with opulence and rich, glamorous people. Clearly Rose is an outsider who doesn't belong. Yet she seems to take to it all rather quickly. Why do you think this is so? Why, despite all the new people she comes into contact with, is Odalie the only one she seems to be charmed by?
- Some readers may think that Rose is a lesbian. Do you? Why or why not? Might her Victorian sensibility, when viewed by a contemporary reader, be misinterpreted and sexualized even if it might be innocent and pure?
- Rose is such a stickler for the rules, yet as the novel progresses, she starts breaking them frequently. In retrospect, do you think she ever follows the rules? Or does she follow only the ones she agrees with?
- Rose is actually quite funny, an astute observer. ("I crawled into [bed] . . . exhausted . . . from the efforts of making conversation with a man who if he were any duller might be declared catatonic by those in the medical profession.") Why, then, is she so humorless when it comes to people like Iris, Gib, and the Lieutenant Detective, especially?
- Rose states in the beginning of the book: "I am there to transcribe what will eventually come to be known as the truth." The novel plays with the notion that the written word is superior to the spoken-Rose's transcripts and her diary that the reader is reading, versus the narration she provides throughout the book. Do you think the written word carries more weight than oral history? Why or why not?
- Consider the many possible story lines for Odalie's history. Did she really kill her ex-fiancé? Was Gib really the driver of the train? Was she indeed a debutante from a wealthy family in Newport? Did she at a young age leave her mother to live with Czakó, the Hungarian, in Europe? Which of these stories is the most plausible? Do you believe any of them is true?
- What do you make of Rose's appearance? Throughout the novel she takes pains to point out that she is plain-looking. Yet the Lieutenant Detective obviously finds her attractive, and at the end of the book, she is a doppelgänger for Odalie, who is portrayed as a knockout. What do you think Rose really looks like? Should her appearance even matter?
- When Rose is in the hospital at the end of the book, the doctors call her "Ginevra." That is the name Teddy used for Odalie. Who do you think is the real Ginevra? Are Odalie and Rose the same person?
- What do you make of the kiss at the end of the novel? Is Rose doing it just to get the Lieutenant Detective's knife, or is there some true feeling behind it? Were you surprised that she admits she's never kissed a man before?
- What do you believe really happened at the end of the book? Did Rose kill Teddy? Or did Odalie?
Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Berkley Books.
Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.