Reading guide for The Speed of Light by Elizabeth Rosner

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The Speed of Light

by Elizabeth Rosner

The Speed of Light
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  • First Published:
    Aug 2001, 256 pages
    Paperback:
    Apr 2003, 272 pages

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Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!

  1. The Speed of Light features three very distinctive characters and their struggles to overcome the difficulties of their past. Which character did you relate to the most? And why?

  2. The novel ends with each character on the brink of a new discovery. What do you imagine happens after the end of the book? What do you think the future holds for Sola, Julian and Paula?

  3. Compare and contrast how the presence of color, scent and sound informs the lives of Julian, Paula and Sola.

  4. Certain metaphors recur throughout the novel and have thematic as well as structural significance. For example, the metaphors of breaking into pieces and unraveling appear for all three characters, and this imagery is also reflected in the frequent alternation of point of view. The result is an impression of fragmentation, which also sets the stage for the interweaving of the characters' lives. Can you find other examples of repeating metaphors and their effects in the novel?

  5. The pivotal role of science and scientific language in The Speed of Light is not only apparent from the book's title, but also Julian's science dictionary literally becomes the novel's fourth voice. What were your impressions of the definitions? Did any of them strike you as particularly resonant in your understanding of the characters and/or the book overall?

  6. In the novel, bearing witness to tragedy implies a responsibility held by both the person telling the story and the person listening. How do you think these responsibilities differ? Do you agree with Sola that each role is important in the healing process? Do you think this idea is applicable to the world today?

  7. Did any of the characters or scenes from The Speed of Light stay with you after you finished reading the book? If so, which ones and why?

  8. The bonds of family are a central theme in the novel - both the secrets and silences that arise as well as the close relationships formed between parent and child, brother and sister. Are there any feelings in the book that resonate with your own family experiences? Do you think this kind of complexity is common to the American family today?

  9. During the course of the novel, each character experiences a significant change and ends up in quite a different place than he or she expected. Did you, as a reader, find the book altered any of your perceptions or experiences in the world around you? If so, discuss these changes and the feelings they inspired.

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