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Leeway Cottage: A Novel


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Reading Group Guide

  1. How would you characterize the narrator's voice, which sometimes echoes the sentiments of the characters? Describe the storyteller you envision as the novel unfolds. How does this narration compare to that of the many contributors to the Leeway Cottage Guest Book?

  2. What do you make of the fact that Sydney's musical talent does not evolve into a profession for her, despite her desire for an unconventional role in the world? Do she and Laurus have a similar appreciation for the arts? In what way does she embody a shifting chapter in American cultural history?

  3. From joining the Resistance to integrating his local YMCA, Laurus is willing to be an agent for justice at every turn. From where does he derive this courage? How does his understanding of compassion compare to that of the other men in Sydney's life, including her father, her son, and Neville?

  4. Leeway Cottage captures the jealousy Candace feels regarding Sydney's relationship with her father, an emotion Sydney comes to understand when she is a mother herself. Do you believe this dynamic is common or rare? What factors contribute to it?

  5. What theories do you have about the reason for Berthe Brant's suicide? Did her marriage to James mirror Sydney's marriage to Laurus in any way?

  6. Discuss the role of Gladdy and her family in Sydney's life. What is the significance of Sydney and Laurus making their home at Leeway Cottage, rather than the house built by Sydney's ancestors?

  7. Were you surprised by Sydney's infidelity with Neville? How do you interpret the scene in which she and Anselma have an awkward run-in with Gladdy? Do you consider Laurus to have been unfaithful to Sydney during the war?

  8. What is the effect of Nina's closing chapter and its position in the novel? Why did Sydney so dislike Nina? What is your understanding of the bequest Nina made to Hans Katz?

  9. The novel focuses on many little-known aspects of Nazi occupation, such as Niels Bohr's ultimatum and the Rosh Hashanah plot against Danish Jews. What history did you learn from Gutcheon's telling of it? In what way is this history the centerpiece of the novel?

  10. What was your reaction to the death of Sydney and Laurus? Do you believe their deaths were due to dementia and accident, or would it have been in character for them to take their own lives? Why do you think Laurus' "movie" was about his sister, rather than about events that came later in his life?

  11. In the last paragraph of her notes regarding the novel's historical inspiration, the author writes "their marriage lasts, as did so many in their generation, but whether it actually worked, and if so, how, becomes the mystery at the heart of their family." Gutcheon also reminds us of how little Sydney understands about her husband's inner life. Is the Moss marriage a product of its generation? Do contemporary couples have different expectations of love and relationships?

  12. How does Gutcheon's use of Dundee in this novel compare to her use of it in More Than You Know? What makes Maine an appropriate setting for both books?

Product Details

A Novel
William Morrow
Gutcheon, Beth
Historical - General
Married people
Summer resorts
General Fiction
Edition Description:
Publication Date:
6 1/8 x 9

Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z

Leeway Cottage: A Novel
0 stars - 0 reviews
$ In Stock
Product details 432 pages William Morrow & Company - English 9780060539054 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "In this sprawling family epic, Gutcheon (More Than You Know) chronicles how an unlikely marriage endures over the course of the 20th century. The novel is anchored in the idyllic, fictional summer colony of Dundee, Maine, which will always feel like home to Annabelle Sydney Brant, but turns on the story of the Danish resistance against the Nazis in WWII, a revolt Annabelle's Danish-born, half-Jewish husband, Laurus Moss, leaves the U.S. to join. Annabelle matures from the young, cosseted Annabee (coming-out parties in Cleveland, sailing in Maine) to the bohemian Sydney (voice lessons and a flat in New York City), clashing with her chilly, socialite mother, Candace, along the way. In New York, she meets Laurus, a pianist, and as they court, Hitler marches on Europe. When the Nazis invade Denmark in 1940, Laurus cannot rest idly with his homeland and family endangered, so joins the London-based Danish Resistance. During their separation, Sydney gives birth to the first of three children and Laurus's family escapes from Denmark to Sweden. The war and time apart change but don't estrange Laurus and Sydney, whose lasting union despite glaring differences puzzles observers: 'Sydney and Laurus Moss were like a tiger and a zebra married to each other. What were those two doing together?' Charting a marriage against the backdrop of a tumultuous century, Gutcheon writes evocatively of love and war." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review" by , "Told against the backdrop of the amazing Danish Resistance and their protection of the Dutch Jews, Gutcheon's tale is more than just a story of a marriage; it's a metaphor for an era."
"Review" by , "Compelling...Ambitious...Gutcheon's insights are...keen, her sympathy for all her characters...contagious."
"Review" by , "A curious combination of a World War II historical/summer house novel, this is a good old-fashioned, all-encompassing read, with tears and smiles guaranteed."
"Review" by , "A gentle, even tender book. Every reader will be wiser for it."
"Review" by , "A rich saga of an American family told with moving clarity."
"Review" by , "[A] great drama, cinematically told..."
"Synopsis" by , The critically acclaimed author of More Than You Know returns with a powerful family drama set in a Victorian summer house in Maine.
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