Senior Book Discussion: Fin & Lady
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Here come the debating points that are embedded in Ms. Donoghue's story. Was the world inside Room somehow safer than the world outside? Will it be damaging for Jack to have to share his mother with new people in her life—or with the people she left behind? Will Ma still be content to do nothing but interact with her frisky son? Is it harder to choose freely from a whole bowl of lollipops than to have no choice at all? Room is sophisticated in outlook and execution, but it's not too complicated to use actual lollipops to frame that theoretical question. Fortunately Ms. Donoghue makes both Ma and Jack too unpredictable for any of those answers to be easy. - Janet Maslin - New York Times
Jack's voice is one of the pure triumphs of the novel: in him, [Donoghue] has invented a child narrator who is one of the most engaging in years—his voice so pervasive I could hear him chatting away during the day when I wasn't reading the book. Donoghue rearranges language to evoke the sweetness of a child's learning without making him coy or overly darling… Through dialogue and smartly crafted hints of eavesdropping, Donoghue fills us in a on Jack's world without heavy hands or clunky exposition…a truly memorable novel…It presents an utterly unique way to talk about love, all the while giving us a fresh, expansive eye on the world in which we live. - Aimee Bender - New York Times Book Review
One of the most affecting and subtly profound novels of the year.... Not too cute, not too weirdly precocious, not a fey mouthpiece for the author's profundities, Jack expresses a poignant mixture of wisdom, love and naivete that will make you ache to save him—whatever that would mean: Delivering him to the outside world? Keeping him preserved here forever?…until you finish it, beware talking about Room with anyone who might clumsily strip away the suspense that's woven through its raw wonder. You need to enter this small, harrowing place prepared only to have your own world expanded.- Ron Charles - Washington Post
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This fascinating book by Emma Donoghue was met with mixed reactions. Given the controversial and gut-wrenching topic, this was no surprise. It did, however, lead to a lively discussion.
What we are reading this month
About the Author
• Where—Bridgeport, Connecticut, USA
• Education—B.A., Barnard College
In her own words:
I tried to be a medieval historian, but I have no memory for facts, dates, or abstract ideas, so that was a bust. When I came back to New York, I tried to be a buyer at Bloomingdale's because I loved shopping. I had an interview, but they never called me back. I really had no choice. I had to be a writer. I could not get a job.
After doing some bits of freelance journalism at the Village Voice, I did finally get a job as a copy editor at Newsweek. My grammar was good, but I can't spell, so it was a challenge. My boss was very nice and indulgent, though, and I wrote Alice in Bed on scraps of paper during slow hours. I didn't have a regular job again until I wrote The Love Letter.
The Love Letter was about a bookseller, so I worked in a bookstore in an attempt to understand the art of bookselling. I discovered that selling books is an interdisciplinary activity, the disciplines being: literary critic, psychologist, and stevedore. I was fired immediately for total incompetence and chaos and told to sit in the back and observe, no talking, no touching.
I dislike humidity and vomit, I guess. My interests and hobbies are too expensive or too physically taxing to actually pursue. I like to take naps. I go shopping to unwind. I love to shop. Even if it's for Q-Tips or Post-Its.
When asked what book most influenced her career as a writer, here is her response:
When I left graduate school after a gruesome attempt to become a medieval historian, I crawled into bed and read Our Mutual Friend. It was, unbelievably, the first Dickens I had ever read, the first novel I'd read in years, and one of the first books not in or translated from Latin I'd read in years. It was a startling, liberating, exhilarating moment that reminded me what English can be, what characters can be, what humor can be. I of course read all of Dickens after that and then started on Trollope, who taught me the invaluable lesson that character is fate, and that fate is not always a neat narrative arc.
But I always hesitate to claim the influence of any author: It seems presumptuous. I want to be influenced by Dickens and Trollope. I long to be influenced by Jane Austen, too, and Barbara Pym and Alice Munro. I aspire to be influenced by Randall Jarrell's brilliant novel, Pictures from an Institution. And I read Muriel Spark when I feel myself becoming soft and sentimental, as a kind of tonic. (From a 2003 Barnes & Noble interview.)
Haverstraw King's Daughters Public Library
10 West Ramapo Rd 85 Main St
Garnerville, NY 10923 Haverstraw, NY 10927
(845) 786-3800 (845) 429-3445
Book Discussions at HKDPL
We have two book discussions that meet on the 4th Thursday of each month:
Seniors 1:30 pm
Evening 7:00 pm
For more information, please contact us at (845)786-3800 x18
1. In Fin and Lady’s world, what constitutes good parenting? What special wisdom do Fin and Lady share, despite their youth?
2. If you were to become the guardian of a young person in your family, who would be the best fit? What sort of life would you try to make for him or her?
3. How are Fin and Lady influenced by the memory of Hugo and Lydia? How is the siblings’ relationship affected by the fact that they have different mothers?
4. Which of Lady’s suitors were you rooting for? Was Fin an asset to Lady as she pursued love? What did her suitors teach him about the ideal man?
5. What are the similarities and differences between Tyler, Biffi, and Jack? How does each of them uniquely influence Lady’s life?
6. How does the 1960s time period affect the story line? Why is it appropriate for this tale to be set against a backdrop of social change in the face of tragedy?
7. What were your theories about who the narrator was? Is the narrator a sign of a new chapter for Fin, or is history repeating itself?
8. Discuss the irony of the names Lady and Fin (“end”). Do their names affect their sense of self?
9. What is Michelangelo’s appeal, in Lady’s eyes? How is he different from the other important men in her life, including her father?
10. Discuss Fin’s friendships with Phoebe and Donatella. What does he discover when he tries to find a love of his own?
11. What does Fin’s letter to Mabel, written from Capri (pages 219–20), reflect about this transitional time in his life?
12. On page 183, in the opening scene of the chapter “April Fool’s Day,” Fin asks himself, “If you’re the child someone never has to have, do you have to be an especially good one?” How would you respond to him? How is his life shaped by missing his mother?
13. Discuss the book’s three major locales --- rural Connecticut, Greenwich Village, and Capri --- and the ways in which they reflect the shifting personalities of the characters. Which locale would you prefer to call home? What does Fin and Lady’s globetrotting say about the meaning of home?
14. Cathleen Schine often creates characters who triumph in unconventional ways. Do Fin and Lady possess any of the traits you enjoyed in Schine’s previous novels?