would you describe this novel in one
epigraph for the book is a quote from
Rose Wilder Lane
. Why do you think she chose this
is the purpose of the prologue? How did
it color your interpretation of what
the course of this novel—which
stretches across six decades of
American history—how does the role of
women change? How might Margaret's
life—and marriage—have been
different were she born later?
is a book that begins and ends with
war—starting in a
that is just emerging from the
destruction of the Civil War,
on the eve of World War II. Margaret's
personal life is also punctuated by
historical events, the San Francisco
Earthquake among them. How does this
history affect the lives of characters?
How does Margaret's story offer the
reader a different perspective on the
larger life of the nation?
page 64, Smiley writes, "Margaret
began to have a fated feeling, as if
accumulating experiences were
precipitating her toward an already
decided future." Do you think her
fated feeling proved accurate? Was
marrying Andrew a choice she made, was
the decision that of both of their
mothers, or was it dictated by the time
tells Margaret, "A wife only has
to do as she's told for the first
year" (page 75). When does
Margaret finally take this advice? Why?
Do you think this is good advice or
Lavinia's advice with the counsel in
the letters Margaret finds from Mrs.
Early to Andrew. Whose is more useful?
More insightful? Do you find Mrs.
Early's behavior toward Margaret and
her mother deceitful?
does Dora represent to Margaret? If she
could trade places with her, do you
think Margaret would? How does Dora
think of Margaret? Do Margaret and Dora
have anything in common? If not, what
do you think brings them together?
and Andrew are both devastated by their
son Alexander's death, yet they react
in different ways. How does Andrew's
perspective on this tragedy—that of a
scientist and a man who believes in
logical explanations—differ from
Margaret's? How does Alexander's death
change their marriage? Might things
have been different if he had lived?
Why or why not?