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Reading Group Guide

  1. Book ImageThe American Lover

    Rose Tremain

    “A collection of stylish daring, tonal mastery and smart, tough love.”—New York Times Book Review

Discussion Questions

  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?

About Rose Tremain

Rose Tremain's prize-winning books, including The Road Home, The Gustav Sonata, Merivel, and The American Lover, have been published in thirty countries. Chancellor of the University of East Anglia, Commander of the Order of the British Empire, and member of the Royal Society of Literature, she lives in Norfolk, England with the biographer Richard Holmes.

Books by Rose Tremain

  1. Book CoverThe American Lover

    “A collection of stylish daring, tonal mastery and smart, tough love.”—New York Times Book ReviewMore

  2. Book CoverThe Gustav Sonata: A Novel

    Winner of the 2016 National Jewish Book Award for Fiction

    A breathtakingly radiant story of an unlikely childhood friendship that survives the test of time.More

  3. Book CoverMerivel: A Man of His Time

    Merivel is an unforgettable hero—soulful, funny, outrageous and achingly sad. His unmistakable, self-mocking voice speaks directly to us down the centuries.More