Questions for Discussion
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1. Paris in the 1920s provides a rich setting for The Shoe Queen
. What did you think of the author's vivid detailed descriptions? What do the venues, designer shoes, and dresses, as well as some of the famous people of the era, like Gertrude Stein, James Joyce and Salvatore Ferragamo add to the novel?
2. Genevieve has a deep, dark secret from her teen years that she carries with her and practically destroys her. What made her so vulnerable to Mr. Giles's advances? How did this early affair affect her marriage to Robert and future relationships/trysts? Did you hope that she would learn that her daughter was alive and meet her in the course of the novel?
3. Genevieve has a strained relationship with her parents. Did you think it odd that she hardly had any contact with them once married; and that she wouldn't go home when she learned her father was ill and her mother needed her? Why did she feel so trapped when in mourning for her mother? What personality traits did she inherit from Lady Ticksted? Why was she so "frightened of turning into her" (page 73)?
4. Why do you think Genevieve was so drawn to Lulu of Montparnasse? What are the similarities and differences between them? What does their friendship offer each? And, is Lulu truly Genevieve's friend? Why or why not?
5. Genevieve has several lovers and flirtations throughout the novel but her affair with the multitalented Paulo Zachari is the relationship that completely shatters her elaborately designed life. Why after he gave her such a hard time about making a pair of shoes did she let him caress her foot in a way no lover had ever done and allow him to procure that "exquisite sensation" (page 93)? How did their affair escalate so quickly and become such an integral part of Genevieve's existence? Do you think, ultimately, that Genevieve's affair with Zachari was good or bad for her?
6. Genevieve has collected 523 pairs of unique and spectacular shoes -- some of which she has never worn and will never wear -- and has an entire room devoted to them. Were you surprised by the fact that she took her childhood Mary Janes with her when she fled her marriage? What did they represent? Did this make you more sympathetic to Genevieve's plight? Why is Genevieve so obsessed with shoes, and is it a healthy obsession?
7. Who did you think was going to be the "lilac letter" snitch? Violet de Fremont? Olga? Lulu? And, do you think Celine really quit her job with the Shelby Kings because she couldn't stand the way Genevieve was treating Robert or was there another underlying cause? If so, what was it? What really were her other choices in that era?
8. When they agree by phone to fl ee to London together, did you believe Zachari would really meet Genevieve at the Gare du Nord? Were you hoping Genevieve would get on the train with or without him? Instead, the young messenger boy leads her to Paulo's real home with Olga. What made Genevieve leave them alone to make their own way with Olga's death?
9. Do you think Robert should have worked harder to save their marriage? Genevieve? Why do you think Robert's wanting to start a family was so destructive to their marriage? At what stage of the story do you think he truly lost her? After Genevieve finally leaves him, what did you think would become of him? Do you think he ever really understood Genevieve?
10. At the very end of the novel, the author tells us a bit about the people that inspired her characters, including: Paulo Zachari, Norman Betterson, Guy Monteray, and Lulu. Did it interest you to discover that the story had some actual historical roots? How is this information helpful as you discuss the novel? Do you feel motivated to find out more about the real-life figures behind The Shoe Queen
11. Do you think Genevieve's journey was, in essence, one of discovering true love? Or was it more of a quest to fi nd meaning in her life and to come to terms with her past? What role did her attempts to write poetry play in this quest?
12. If the story were to continue, do you think Genevieve would stay on with Lulu? Is there anything in her past that will be an obstacle to her future? Enhance Your Book Group
Set the mood by playing music from the 1920s, including artists like Josephine Baker, Maurice Chevalier, or Mabel Mercer as guests arrive or during your book group discussion.
Get a sense of the art that was popular in Paris in the 1920s by bringing reproductions from photographers like Andre Kertesz or Henri Cartier- Bresson or artists like Picasso, Henri Matisse, Mondrian, or Marcel Duchamp.
Serve some of the types of Parisian delicacies that Genevieve and Lulu devour as they share stories, such as praline cake, petit fours, éclairs, pain au chocolat, etc.