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The Various Flavors of Coffeeby Anthony Capella
Reading Group Guide
1. What did you discover about fin-de-siècle England by reading The Various Flavors of Coffee? What makes this time and place ideal for love stories such as Robert and Emilys?
2. Discuss the significance of coffee as Samuel Pinkers chosen product. What makes Robert suited to the job of describing an addictive pleasure? What do Pinkers other marketing tactics achieve?
3. What sparks Emily and Roberts mutual attraction? What makes Emily different from the other women he has known?
4. Browse through the epigraphs that appear on the opening pages of various chapters and parts, and the quotation that opens the book. What sort of poetry do they form, echoing Roberts verse and enhancing the novel?
5. A frequent client of prostitutes, Robert becomes interested in the taboo subject of womens sexual pleasure. In what ways is he a very exceptional yet a very typical man for his generation? Why did society question whether it was possible for women to enjoy sex? Were you aware of the medical procedures once used to treat hysterics?
6. Fikre was literally enslaved, and Emily was symbolically enslaved. What do both characters demonstrate about womens history? How did obedience, virginity, and other factors determine their “value”?
7. How were Pinkers daughters affected by his parenting style? What distinctions did he make between daughters and sons?
8. Discuss Arthurs career in politics, and Emilys role in that life. Is their style of marriage completely outdated? Do similar marriages still exist in the contemporary world?
9. Compare Hector to Robert. What did Emily admire about both men? Was Hectors life driven more by fate or by his own choices?
10. At its core, is Fikres story any different from the other “various flavors” of love in the novel? In what ways is Mulu a desirable man, perhaps even more desirable than any of the other male characters?
11. Ultimately, what was the reason Robert and Emilys story unfolded as it did? Were you surprised by the revelations in her letter, appearing in chapter eighty-seven?
12. What did you learn about Britains suffragettes? What did Emilys hunger strike indicate about her true self? What similar social-justice movements exist today in your community?
13. Are there any traces of Frog left in the grown-up Philomena? How does Philomena honor her sisters legacy? In what ways are they very much alike?
14. What was the effect of the novels structure, with shifts in the verb tense and shifts in the points of view? What does the voice of an older Robert Wallis convey as he recalls his life?
15. What does Africa represent to Robert? How does the landscape of foreign lands compare to that of England? How do the novels varying settings create meaningful backdrops for the episodes in Roberts life?
16. Anthony Capellas previous novels also deal with sensual delights and international locales. How does this blend make his work unique?
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