This reading group guide for Dreaming in French includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.
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QUESTIONS AND TOPICS FOR DISCUSSION
1. Why did Frank and Astrid move to Paris? Is the city a natural fit for them? Do they consider France their “home”?
2. In a novel filled with expatriates, what does nationality mean to each of them? Do the main characters consider themselves French, American, both, or neither?
3. Why does a teenaged Charlotte cling so closely to her mother? Are they too close for Charlotte’s own good? In one way or another, was she always afraid of losing Astrid?
4. Why do Charlotte and Lea call their parents by their first names?
5. “I didn’t trust perfection. That was why I fell in love with boys like Patrice and not Serge” (page 75). Why doesn’t Charlotte trust perfection? Are her choices in men consistent throughout the novel?
6. Which characters truly care about the political struggles happening in other countries? Is Charlotte aware of the world around her? Is Lea? Maybelle? Grace?
7. Maybelle tells Charlotte, “You and me, we’re worker bees.” (p. 84) How do they feel about their role in society? Which other characters assume the “queen bee” title and which are the “worker bees”?
8. After learning of her affair, why did Frank completely cut off Astrid? Was he fair to both Astrid and their daughters?
9. Discuss the relationship between Astrid and Maybelle. How do they compare to the novel’s other two sisters, Charlotte and Lea? Do they always want the best for each other? Do any of the women feel superior to their sister?
10. How does Charlotte’s life in New York compare to her life in Paris? If her mother never had an affair, do you think Charlotte would still have become “stunted and bleak and, yes, bitter”? (p. 172)
11. Why does Charlotte choose to attend Yale? Is she as similar to her mother as many people suggest? Does Frank have any influence over her?
12. How does Astrid’s illness change her and those who love her?
13. Ultimately, with whom was Astrid most intimate? Charlotte? Maybelle? Grace? Or someone else?
14. By novel’s end, is Charlotte happy with her life? ENHANCE YOUR BOOK CLUB
1. As a student of French literature, the classics are clearly very important to Charlotte. Before your meeting, research some of her favorites, such as François Rabelais, and discuss how they might have influenced Charlotte.
2. From colorful walls to bright drapes to outrageous fashion, Astrid would be the first one to point out the importance of atmosphere. For your next meeting, make sure to wear your most chic ensembles, and don’t forget the French food and wine! Also make sure to play Astrid’s favorite songs—anything by the Beatles, “Unforgettable,” “These Foolish Things,” and “All of Me.”
3. Much like Charlotte, author Megan McAndrew was raised in Europe and now lives in New York City. To find out more information about her and to see pictures from her book tour, visit her Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/MeganMcAndrewAuthor/150496496918?v=wall&ref=mf