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The Orphan's Tale Reading Group Guide
- Noa gives her newborn away but remains bereft by the loss and tormented by visions of the child. What do you make of her decision?
- In her own voice, Noa tells us...
I am unfamiliar with infants and I hold him at arm's length now, like a dangerous animal. But he moves closer, nuzzling against my neck.
Talk about the horror of that scene in the "nursery car" (which is historically accurate). What prompts Noa to save a half-dead?
- What do you make of Astrid, whose voice alternates with Noa's? How has her tumultuous past shaped her character, especially in terms of her ability to trust others?
- Talk about the development of the Noa and Astrid's relationship, on the ropes and off.
- Author Pam Jenoff conducted considerable research into Jewish circus dynasties, which has enabled her to provide the grainy details of circus life. What do you find interesting or what, in particular, strikes you about life under the tent?
- Talk about the symbolic use of the circus with its twinkling lights as a foil to the darkness and terror of the Nazi era.
- What do you make of the novel's other characters—Herr Neuhoff, or Peter, for instance. In what way do they demonstrate courage in the face of danger, brutality, and evil?
The Winter Guest Reading Group Guide
- Which sister did you identify with more closely, Helena or Ruth? If you have a sibling, were you able to relate to their rivalry, camaraderie, and the distinct role each of them played in the family?
- Were there things that you wished Helena had done differently throughout the book? Under what circumstances would you make a decision like Helena’s – one that put yourself and potentially the ones you love at risk? Would you have helped Sam, or looked the other way to protect your family?
- Despite the horrors of war, a romantic view of WWI and WWII abounds in historical novels. What is it about wartime that drew men and women together so powerfully, like Helena and Sam? Do you believe it is possible for people to fall in love so quickly and for such a love to last?
- How did each of the sisters’ strengths and weaknesses come to light in the story – and what role did Sam play?
- Discuss the sisters’ relationship as it evolved throughout the book. Do you think it improved or deteriorated by the end?
- The Nowak sisters were young women dealing with situations that were completely overwhelming, especially at such a young age. What do you think each really wanted out of life, and in your view were those dreams achievable?
- Did you identify with any symbolic items or places throughout the book? What did they represent to you?
- Helena’s feelings toward the Jews, and the Poles’ views of the Jews, were multi-faceted throughout the book. What was your reaction to these varying perspectives?
- Were you surprised to learn what had happened to the Nowaks at the end of the book? Did you feel it was the appropriate ending for each of the characters?
The Ambassador's Daughter Reading Group Guide
- As the story opened, Margot appeared to be an independent and confident young woman. How do you think her character changed throughout the story, and what caused those changes? What do you feel was her greatest strength and weakness?
- How do you think the loss of her mother affected Margot? How did this change throughout the book, particularly when she learned the truth?
- Georg and Margot developed feelings for one another after mere days. What did you see in their time together that attracted them so powerfully? Do you believe it is possible to fall in love so quickly and for such a relationship to last?
- How was it possible for Margot to keep secrets from those she professed to love most? How did it affect her relationships with her father, with Georg? Do you think that Margot’s choices were justified by her intentions?
- Margot and Krysia became such close friends despite significant differences in age and circumstances. What do you think it was that drew them together, and what did each of them provide for the other? Have you ever found yourself in such a close but unlikely friendship?
- Margot was a very young woman dealing with situations that most of us today would find completely over whelming at age twenty. What do you think it was that Margot really wanted out of life?
- What did you think about Margot’s relationship with Stefan? Could you sympathize with her, being torn by an old promise to a man she didn’t know anymore and her love for a man that offered her a promising future? What would you have done in her shoes?
- Margot experienced anti-German sentiment from those around her who saw her as the enemy. Do you think this was a fair judgment, given the political climate of the time? Do you think this type of mentality still exists today?
- The post-WWI era is less familiar to some readers than WWII and other historical time periods. What did you like about a novel set during this time? Did you identify with any symbolic items, people or places throughout the book? What did they represent to you?
- Do you agree that Margot’s relationship with her father improved over the course of the novel? How so, or how not?
- What do you think happens six months after the end of the book? Six years?
- The Ambassador’s Daughter is the prequel to two of Pam Jenoff’s other novels, The Kommandant’s Girland The Diplomat’s Wife. If you have read those, how did you feel this book compared? Did knowing what happens twenty years down the line color your reading of this book?
The Things We Cherished Reading Group Guide
- Why do you think Charlotte agreed to help Brian and take on the case? Do you agree with her decision?
- Do you think the ends that Roger was seeking (saving Magda and her daughter) justified the means of his choices and actions? Did you find him likeable despite these choices?
- What do you think drew Roger and Magda together so powerfully? How did their dynamic change throughout the book?
- What do you think Magda really wanted?
- What role does the clock play throughout the book? Are there commonalities in the way it touches people’s lives? Differences?
- The relationships between the brothers in the book (Brian and Jack, Sol and Jake, Roger and Hans) are fraught with both affection and acrimony. What is it about sibling relationships that makes them so complex? Is it different when the siblings are the same sex versus the opposite?
- Charlotte initially dislikes Jack. When does she begin to feel differently about him? What conflicts develop between them, and are they things that can be overcome? Is the fact that they’re both attorneys an advantage or a detriment to their romantic relationship?
- How do you think Charlotte’s personal and professional lives influenced one another at the beginning of the book? Did that change?
- With whom in the book does Charlotte most closely identify/relate? Why?
- Were you surprised at the way in which Johann, the farmer, went on to live his life after Rebecca died? How so?
- Which character in the book was most tested by circumstance? Which was most transformed?
- Did you think the events in the characters’ lives were driven by fate? Chance?
- What do you think of Sol's perception that he was the lucky one because he got to remain in Berlin after Jake was forced to flee?
- Where do you think Charlotte winds up one month after the end of the book? One year? Five years?
A Hidden Affair Reading Group Guide
- What compels Jordan to resign her position with the State Department and set out on her own to search for Jared? What are her main reasons for wanting to find him?
- “The fact that Jared is alive means that the past ten years of my life, every thought I had and decision I made, was predicated upon a flawed assumption” (pg 22), says Jordan. In what ways did her belief that Jared was dead affect her life and the choices she made, both personally and professionally?
- Jordan initially dislikes Aaron, finding him “dismissive and condescending” (pg 39). When does she begin to feel differently about him? What conflicts develop between them, and are they things that can be overcome? Is the fact that they’re both intelligence operatives an advantage or a detriment in their romantic relationship?
- Why is Jordan even more determined to find Jared after she finds out that he’s married to Nicole? Why does Nicole encourage Jordan to go see Jared alone after their confrontation on the dock?
- Jordan and Jared were college sweethearts, together for less than three months before his presumed death. Would their relationship have withstood the test of time? Why or why not? Who is the better romantic partner for Jordan, Jared or Aaron?
- Discuss the historical and political aspects of the novel, including how wine was used during World War II. Regarding Jordan and Ari’s difference of opinion about Israel, which one do you think presents the stronger argument?
- “[Jared] has the life that I do not, that I could not have while I was eternally grieving for him. I feel angry and foolish at the same time” (pg 225), admits Jordan. Why was she unable to get past Jared’s “death,” while he moved on with his life? Discuss whether or not you think Jared was justified in faking his own death.
- Discuss Jordan’s reunion with Jared. How is it different than what she had imagined? Ultimately, what realizations does Jordan come to about herself and Jared? Does she find the closure she was seeking? Why or why not?
- When Jordan finds out that Noah has been kidnapped, she offers to help rescue him. Why does she put her life at risk to save Jared and Nicole’s son?
- How compelling did you find the suspense aspect of the storyline? Were you able to predict any plot turns, or did the author keep you guessing until the end?
- Have you read Almost Home, the prequel to A Hidden Affair? If so, what are your thoughts on the continuation of Jordan’s story? If not, share whether or not you’re now interested in reading Almost Home.
Almost Home Reading Group Guide
Additional bookclub resources for Almost Home: http://www.bookmovement.com/
- While at Cambridge, Jordan was the only American in her group of friends. Did she feel fully accepted by her teammates, or was the fact that she was an American or a woman ever an obstacle? Did Jordan ever pretend to be someone she wasn’t?
- “Chris once teased me about my sentimentality over what he called ‘a silly children’s film’ [Mary Poppins]. Still, perhaps he purposely chose our meeting place so close to the cathedral, since he knows how much I loved it” (pg. 62). Was this Chris’s plan? Does he attempt to manipulate Jordan throughout the novel?
- After briefly reuniting with Chris, Jordan flees and notes “This is the second time I have fled in two days, and it isn’t like me” (pg. 72). Is this statement accurate? Consider Jordan’s career, which doesn’t allow her to stay in one place too long.
- Jordan states that the only reason she returned to England was to care for her sick friend Sarah. However, she doesn’t spend much time with Sarah upon arriving. Is she simply too busy with work and finding the truth about Jared? What other reasons could there be?
- Both Chris and Jordan note how driven Jared was. Why was he so determined to seek the truth?
- “A meeting would provide an emergency escape hatch if the day in Cambridge got to be too much” (pg. 87). Are there other examples in the book of Jordan taking precautions to protect herself? Do you think these measures are a result of Jared’s death, her work with the State Department, or something else?
- Jared remarks to Jordan that Chris “can’t stand going home alone” (pg. 126). Is this true? If so, why? And why doesn’t Chris openly share his feelings with Jordan, either before her relationship with Jared or a decade later?
- “Social justice, my father told me once at Passover, was our obligation as Jews, to free all people from the bonds of oppression as we had once been freed” (pg. 189). Is this desire what drives Jordan? Even though she says she’s not religious, in what other ways might her religion shape who Jordan has become?
- What could be the reason for Jared strangling Jordan while the two are both sleeping?
- Why does Mo acquiesce to Ambassador Raines? How much of his plan was she aware of?
- Several people end up betraying Jordan. When did you first become suspicious of these characters or the novel’s other twists? Is there anyone Jordan can truly trust?
The Diplomat's Wife Reading Group Guide
The Diplomat's Wife addresses many of the questions that were left open at the end of Kommandant's Girl. Were you surprised by the answers? Satisfied?
- How did Marta's character change/evolve throughout the story?
- What was the most difficult challenge faced by Marta in the book?
- What was Marta's greatest strength? Her greatest flaw?
- What do you think drew Marta and Paul together so powerfully? How did their dynamic change throughout the book?
- What was Marta's relationship like with the places and people from her past?
- Did you agree with Marta's choices in the book? Did you find them believable?
- How was Marta's life affected by the secrets that she kept?
- How did Marta's view of Emma, and Emma's view of Marta, change in this book?
- Where do you think Marta ends up one month after the end of the book? One year? Five years?
- Did you think the events in Marta's life were driven by fate? Chance?
- What was the central theme of the book? Did it resonate with you?
Kommandant's Girl Reading Group Guide
- Did you find Emma’s choices believable? Which ones? Why?
- Do you think the ends that Emma’s was seeking justified the means of her choices and actions?
- How did Emma’s character change/evolve throughout the story?
- What was the most difficult challenge faced by Emma in the book?
- What role does Krysia play in the story? Lukasz?
- Do you agree with Emma’s decision to keep the paternity of her unborn child a secret from her husband? Why or why not?
- Emma kept secrets from both of the men in her life -- the Kommandant and Jacob. Do you think real intimacy is possible in such circumstances?
- What is it that you think Emma really wanted?
- How do you think Marta felt about Emma?
- Where do you think Emma winds up one month after the end of the book? One year? Five years?
- Who is your favorite character in the book and why?
- What is the central theme of the book and how did you feel about it?