The All Good Books book club will meet tomorrow evening (Thursday, September 11, 2014) at 7:00 PM at the Leawood pioneer Library to discuss Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin. It’s confession time: I’m barely half way through the book but have seen the movie twice. With an all day field trip scheduled for tomorrow (with my 5th Grade Grandson), there’s no way I’ll finish the book (Kindle says it’ll take me over 11+ hours to finish, and I’m a slow reader).

I hope someone in the group has finished the 750 page tome but if not, I hope you’ve viewed the movie (available through RedBox, maybe elsewhere).
I have made some notes and have some questions on what I’ve read (and seen) so far, so I think we’ll have a great discussion, even if not everyone has finished reading the book…and I do intend to keep reading, but I may not hit the last page before our discussion tomorrow.
  1. What was your overall impression of the novel? What did you enjoy or like about it and what conversely did you not like?
  2. What reaction do you have to the author’s (Mark Helprin) writing style? How would you describe it?
  3. Who is Pearly Soames? Demon or stupid criminal? Why did his father try to kill him as a child and how?
  4. Why are criminals described as “retainers of fluidity” on page 21?
  5. On page 23, it talks about Pearly’s “color gravity.” What is that?
  6. What is the “cemetery of the honored dead” (page 29) and why would Pearly want to meet there?
  7. The baymen had a saying “Truth is no rounder than a horse’s eye.” What does that mean?
  8. “Winter’s Tale” (like “Cloud Atlas”) seems to suggest that everyone is connected across time and space; that one person’s choices (actions) impact others in other times. What’s your reaction to that premise?
  9. In the movie, Beverly’s Father says “nothing happens that isn’t supposed to happen.” Agree or disagree?
  10. What is the role of “light” in the movie?
  11. Peter Lake is advised (in the movie) that there is “something he is still meant to do.” What was it? 
  12. Young Peter Lake (page 56, 63, 70, 94), Virginia Gamely (248-249) and Hardesty Marratta (page 334-335) have quite different views of New York City. Describe and indicate which you thought was more accurate.
  13. What is a catenary and why is it “God’s own signature on earth” (page 73)?
  14. Why did people hate Jackson Mead (page 75)?
  15. Why did Pearly Sames hate Peter Lake so vehemently?
  16. Water, light, time, snow and the cities (San Francisco and New York) all take on a life of their own in the novel. How would you describe each?
  17. What differences do you see between Beverly Penn of the book and movie? Is she delirious or seeing visions when she sees the stars, the city alive and writes equations in her own handwriting that she doesn’t know how to interpret later (page 107)?
  18. Isaac Penn seems very egalitarian in the book (page 101); is that his true nature or did you see him otherwise?
  19. When Isaac Penn and Peter Lake first meet, he asks Peter if he’s a burglar. How did you react to the conversation on pages 160-165 about poverty, justice, and inequality.
  20. Did you enjoy the fantastic elements in the book or were they bothersome? Remember the hole in the ceiling when the Penns dine, the ability of the white horse to jump city blocks at a time, the simultaneous burglar entry of Peter into the Penn home that corresponded sound for sound to Beverly’s exit from her loggia to the indoor pool and Jesse Honey’s catapult.
  21. There seems to be a foundational law in “Winter’s Tale” that states “what you dream becomes reality.” What’s your reaction to that premise?
  22. Explain the quote (page 276) from the Marratta salver; “For what can be imagined more beautiful than the sight of a perfectly just city rejoicing in justice alone.” What else was on the salver?
I’m looking forward to our discussion tomorrow night, even if my part is only half informed (having read only half the book)!