Sharing some book club questions for From a Paris Balcony, as requested by a reader today…
- Parisian courtesans during the Belle Epoque are generally accepted to have been some of the first women to have management of their own lives. The issue of courtesans also highlighted the dual attitudes toward women at the time, and the polarisation between ‘respectability’ and ‘those others.’ What was your reaction to Marthe: did you see her as an outcast, a woman of formidable strength, or as threatening to the status quo?
- Sarah goes to Paris to find out the truth about her family’s past. How important do you think it is to understand our family histories? Are they important to us today? Do you have any mysteries in your family’s past that intrigue you?
- How do you think Sarah learned from the story surrounding her ancestor’s life? Did she gain something from finding the truth about Louisa, if so, what?
- Louisa struggles to find freedom and authenticity in her life as a woman in the nineteenth century. To what extent do you think women, and particularly young women still face these issues in your society?
- Dancers and courtesans in the Belle Epoque were ‘marketed’ on posters and billboards all over Paris during the late nineteenth century. How do you view current portrayals of women in our social media? Do you think things have improved, particularly for young women, at all?
- Class plays a distinct role in the novel. Louisa’s life is governed by the strict rules of the upper classes. Sarah’s family have been rejected by Boston’s elite. Henry’s class is his destiny. Are we any better off today?
7. The book explores different aspects of love. We have the relationship between Henry and Marthe, Louisa and Charlie, and Sarah and Laurent. Which of these relationships did you warm to the most, or did you find moving? Why?
8. Louisa feels trapped and out of her depth in Belle Epoque Paris, and yet she is an intellectual, who believes in social change. In Paris, a revolution of a different type is happening. Can you draw parallels between the twin approaches to social change during that era and the polarisation occurring in our political climate today?
9. Did you have any empathy for Henry, or not?