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This reading group guide for The Library of Light and Shadow
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.Introduction
In the wake of a dark and brutal world war, the glitz and glamour of 1925 Manhattan shine like a beacon for the high society set, desperate to keep their gaze firmly fixed to the future.
But Delphine Duplessi, a descendent of La Lune, sees more than most. An artist from L’École des Beaux-Arts, Delphine has gained notoriety for her stunning shadow portraits that frequently expose her subjects’ most scandalous secrets.
On a snowy night in February, in a penthouse high above Fifth Avenue, Delphine’s mystical talent leads to a tragedy between two brothers.
Devastated and disconsolate, Delphine renounces her gift and returns to her old life in the south of France where Picasso, Matisse, and the Fitzgeralds are summering.
There, Delphine is thrust into recapturing the past. First by her charismatic twin brother and business manager, Sebastian, who attempts to cajole her back to work and into codependence, then by the world famous opera singer Emma Calvé, who is obsessed with the writings of the fourteenth-century alchemist Nicolas Flamel. And finally by her ex-lover Mathieu, who is determined to lure her back into his arms, unaware of the danger that led Delphine to flee Paris for New York five years before.Topics & Questions for Discussion
1. How would you describe the letter from Thérèse Bruis? What is the tone? What is she asking of Delphine? How does it establish the conflict that Delphine struggles with throughout the book?
2. Review Delphine and Mathieu’s first encounter in Paris. What do her observations tell us about Mathieu? Should she have told him her secret gift?
3. During one of their dates, Mathieu tells Delphine: “Always love to the point of madness or else what is the point of love” (pg. 75). What did he mean by this? Do you agree?
4. Sequestered in her studio for quite some time, Delphine paints a few interesting works. How do the paintings reflect her state of mind?
5. In describing Sebastian, Delphine says, “Maman said I made [Sebastian] into a star that shone too brightly and that it wasn’t good for either of us” (pg. 84). What did Delphine’s mother mean by this?
6. How does Delphine view her mother? What impact does Sandrine have on her? Identify passages that represent their relationship.
7. Why does Delphine eventually agree to paint Madame Calvé’s chateau and help find the Book of Abraham
8. Delphine asks her brother to apologize after sharing her secret with Marsden. Why was it important for Delphine to demand that?
9. The first night at Madame Calvé’s house, Delphine has a dream. What is the significance of the animal form she takes?
10. Why doesn’t Delphine trust Gaspard?
11. Delphine offers to paint Mathieu to help him remember his past, but he replies: “And any secrets the universe is keeping from me I can leave well enough alone. Some things are meant to remain hidden” (pg. 233). Do you agree with Mathieu’s response? Why or why not?
12. Delphine flees after revealing a painting showing Mathieu dying by her hand. What do you think about this decision?
13. How would you describe Delphine and Mathieu’s face-to-face encounter at Madame Calvé’s chateau? Was it what you had expected? Why do you think she still kept the secret about her painting?
14. What truth did we learn about Sebastian’s near-drowning incident from his and Delphine’s childhood? Were you surprised by it?
15. In the grotto with Gaspard, what epiphany does Delphine reach about her reason for leaving Paris?Enhance Your Book Club
1. Would you allow yourself to sit for Delphine? How would you react if your secret was shown to the world?
2. If you had Delphine’s gift, how would you use it?
3. Sibling relationships, especially with twins, are complex. If you have a sibling, compare Delphine’s relationship with Sebastian to your own.
4. Would you look for the key to immortality like Madame Calvé?
5. “For a moment, I wanted to run after him. To stay with him and Nicky. It would be so much easier than facing what was ahead of me . . .” (pg. 353). If you were in Delphine’s shoes, would you have stayed back? Why or why not?