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Reading Group Guide

  1. Book ImageParis Red: A Novel

    Maureen Gibbon

    For readers of Girl with a Pearl Earring, a “beautiful, brilliant, delicious” (Elizabeth McCracken) novel about Edouard Manet’s muse.

Discussion Questions

  1. The first sentence of Paris Red reads, “That day I am seventeen and am wearing the boots of a whore.” Shortly thereafter, having glimpsed Manet, Victorine says, “But I am seventeen, in leaf green boots, and I know he will come over to us.” What role do the boots play in Victorine’s sense of self as it develops? Why do you think the boots figure so prominently in the novel? What is the significance of their color? Of their previous owner?
  2. What scenes and images of the novel feel particularly evocative for you of Paris? Of Impressionist painting? Do you feel that, having read this novel, you understand differently the relationship between those paintings and the city that inspired them?
  3. Were you familiar with Manet’s Olympia before reading the novel? How does the novel’s imagining of the model’s interiority affect how you see the painting?
  4. Victorine’s relationship with Manet includes, at the beginning, her close friend Denise. How would you characterize Victorine and Denise’s friendship? What about it felt unusual to you for a friendship between women?
  5. Victorine gives up Denise in favor of Manet, or, at least, the women’s friendship significantly changes when Victorine starts seeing him. Do you think Manet is right when he says early on, “If I slept with just one of you, I would ruin your friendship”? Is their friendship ruined or simply transformed? What is the nature of that transformation?
  6. How do you think the novel draws out the relationship between the sensuality of art and the sensuality of love? How does Victorine discover both at once?
  7. There is a difference in class between Manet and Victorine: she is a “working girl,” and he, an artist and a man of leisure. How does that class difference find a way into his art and thus change the history of painting? How does it change Victorine’s life?
  8. Before she meets Manet, Victorine modeled once before and disliked the experience. What do you think the different is? How, through her relationship with Manet, does she come to understand the position of the model as a position of power and artistry?
  9. Compare and contrast Victorine’s relationship with her black ribbon to her relationship with her green boots. What do you think the ribbon symbolize for her?
  10. As a real-life, historical figure, Victorine Meurent is commonly understood to have been a prostitute. How does Paris Red serve a feminist purpose in granting Victorine power and agency instead?

About Maureen Gibbon

Maureen Gibbon is the author of two previous novels. Her fiction and nonfiction have appeared in the New York Times, Minneapolis Star Tribune, Playboy, Byliner, and elsewhere. She lives in Park Rapids, Minnesota.

Books by Maureen Gibbon

  1. Book CoverParis Red: A Novel

    For readers of Girl with a Pearl Earring, a “beautiful, brilliant, delicious” (Elizabeth McCracken) novel about Edouard Manet’s muse.More