Monday, February 2, 2009

The Thirteenth Tale Discussion Questions

I pulled these questions from a few internet sources, listed at the bottom of this post. They're only meant to give us discussion ideas and don't all have to be addressed.

  1. Margaret and her mother are bound by a singular loss -- the death of Margaret's twin sister. How has each woman dealt with this loss, and how has it affected her life? If her parents had told her the truth about her twin, would Margaret still be haunted?

  2. Miss Winter frequently changes points of view from third to first person, from "they" to "we" to "I," in telling Margaret her story. The first time she uses "I" is in the recounting of Isabelle's death and Charlie's disappearance. What did you make of this shifting when Margaret points it out on page 204?

  3. Why do you think Margaret obeyed Miss Winter's summons?

  4. The story shifts significantly after the death of Mrs. Dunne and John Digence. Adeline steps forward as intelligent, well-spoken, and confident -- the "girl in the mists" emerges. Did you believe this miraculous transformation? If not, what did you suspect was really going on?

  5. When did you first suspect Miss Winter's true identity? Whether you knew or not, looking back, what clues did she give to Margaret (and what clues did the author give to you)?

  6. The title of this novel is taken from the title of Miss Winter's first book, Thirteen Tales of Change and Desperation, a collection of twelve stories with a mysterious thirteenth left out at the last minute before publication. How is this symbolic of the novel? What is the thirteenth tale?

  7. Do you think Adeline or Emmeline was saved from the fire?

  8. What is the significance of Jane Eyre to the story?

  9. Margaret tells Aurelius that her mother preferred telling “weightless” stories in place of heavy ones, and that sometimes it’s better “not to know.” Do you agree or disagree?

  10. Who is Miss Winter? What is significant about her in the beginning of the story? Why does Miss Winter want to tell her story now? Why has Miss Winter lied about her life for so long and why does she change her mind now? Why does Miss Winter choose Margaret to tell her story to?

  11. Early in the novel, Margaret explains, “I read old novels. The reason is simple: I prefer proper endings. Marriages and deaths, noble sacrifices and miraculous restorations, tragic separations and unhoped-for reunions, great falls and dreams fulfilled; these, in my view, constitute an ending worth the wait.” At their first meeting, Vida Winter makes Margaret promise not to ask any questions or jump ahead through her story. The Thirteenth Tale itself is structured into three parts — “Beginnings,” “Middles,” and “Endings”–plus one. Why do you think the author included another “Beginning” at the conclusion? Did the story end for you there?


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