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Swan: A Novelby Frances Mayes
Synopses & Reviews
1. The first two chapters introduce J. J. and Ginger in settings where they seem fulfilled and at peace. What does J. J.'s cabin have in common with the farmhouse Ginger rents in Italy? Is there any similarity between Ginger's relationship with Marco and J. J.'s experience with Julianne, the teacher from Osceola? How does Julianne measure up to Georgia Larkin?
2. Discuss the narrator's voice in Swan. What traits do you recognize from Frances Mayes's non fiction and poetry? How did her accomplished writer's eye serve her in creating a novel?
3. Compare her depiction of small-town Georgia to that of Tuscany. Are there any similarities between the Mason's family house and Bramasole?
4. Frances told her editor that Swan is a book of memory, how it cuts and comes again, and of a powerful landscape, which is always at work shaping the people who live on its surface. What are some of the ways in which memory and landscape define the inhabitants of Swan? Were Swan's old days good ones?
5. Holt's relationship with Lucy is considered just as taboo as Catherine's extramarital affair. As time passes, how is this legacy of racism handled in the town of Swan? In what ways do Tessie and Scott reflect their generations?
6. Frances Mayes is renowned for her description of Tuscany's cuisine. What are some of the most tempting Southern dishes presented in the novel?
7. From Big Jim to Ginger, the novel portrays a variety of traditional and highly non-traditional men and women. Discuss how Swan's characters compare to the men and women in your life. Do you think that Southern gender roles are different from those found elsewhere in America?
8. Occurring early in the novel, Ginger's passionate scene with Marco is immediately followed by gruesome events in Magnolia Cemetery. How are attitudes toward sex and death entwined in the town of Swan?
9. Why do Ginger and J. J. have such opposing reactions to their father? How did your impression of Wills change when you learned of his connection to Dachau?
10. Do you suppose that Catherine would have rebuffed Austin's marriage proposal if she had been born twenty years later? Is her situation reflected in Ginger's first marriage? How does Catherine's affair compare with her children's romances?
11. Who were your primary suspects in Catherine's murder? How would you have reacted in Sonny's place?
When the body of her mother, a suicide nineteen years earlier, is mysteriously exhumed, Ginger Mason returns to her small Georgia hometown from her life as an archaeologist in Italy and is reunited with her troubled, reclusive brother J. J., as dark secrets and startling truths about their family and their town begin to surface. A first novel. 75,000 first printing.
"This remains a solid read, sure to please readers who enjoy Southern fiction."
"An assured fiction debut...Like Richard Russo's novel Empire Falls, it smartly dissects and dynamics of small-town relationships and the interplay between prominent families and the less powerful over several generations...carefully constructed...you'll fall for "Swan."
"Fueled by irresistable, page-turning questions."
-San Francisco Chronicle
"A painstaking study of a small Southern town and its people...combining Mayes's] talent for vivid scene-setting that she] showed in "Tuscan Sun" with deft plotting and solid character development."
-St. Louis Post-Dispatch
"Loaded with finely-drawn minor characters and the alluring atmosphere of the American South, Swan is a well-paced...entertainment."
-New York Times Book Review
From the Hardcover edition.
About the Author
Frances Mayes’s Tuscany memoirs, all published by Broadway Books, have a combined total of 2,000,000 copies in print. She is also the author of The Discovery of Poetry and five books of poetry. A native of Georgia, she now divides her time between San Francisco and Cortona, Italy.
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