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Angelicaby Arthur Phillips
Reading Group Guide
1. Can anyone be justly blamed for the situation at the Barton house?
2. How did your impressions of Constance Barton, Anne Montague, Joseph Barton, and Angelica Barton change with each of the four parts?
3. Were there really ghosts at the Barton house? Do you think Arthur Phillips believes in the supernatural, or is he a man of science? Or does it matter?
4. What is Constance really ﬁghting, if not a blue ﬂying man? What does the specter represent? Why is it important that it be male? Would you say Constance is insane? Why or why not? Which is more frightening: the supernatural or the real horrors in Constances home and mind? Whats the difference?
5. Do you think Dr. Miless insights about the Bartons situation are reasonable? How do they compare to Anne Montagues?
6. Does Anne Montague help or hinder Constance? Why is Constance special to Anne, although Anne has treated many similar cases?
7. How are the roles of motherhood and fatherhood discussed in the novel? Consider Constance as a girl, a mother, and a motherless mother. Consider Josephs relationship with his mother and father, and his sense of himself as a father. How can Anne, who has never had children of her own, be a mother to both Constance and Angelica?
8. How is childhood portrayed in this novel? Who is protecting whom? Who needs protection most?
9. Do you think Angelica is innocent, all things considered?
10. What is the difference between Josephs feelings of failure and Constances? How do their respective realizations of failure affect them? Did you feel more sympathetic to one or the other of these characters?
11. Who uses sex as a weapon in Angelica, literally or ﬁguratively? Who is dominated or manipulated by it? Is sex particularly dangerous in the Victorian context? If so, how?
12. Mature narrator Angelica writes from Constances point of view: “for that was precisely the issue in this house: the ﬂesh reality of intellectual conversation” (p. 137). What does this mean? How does Josephs interpretation of the “issue” differ?
13. Do the issues presented in this Victorian ghost story apply to contemporary readers? Do they resonate with your own life?
14. Do you think Constances reaction to Josephs work testing on animals is reasonable or hysterical? Is Joseph a sadist or a scientist? Can he be both? Do you think men are intrinsically more scientiﬁcally minded, and women intuitively minded? Does the author think so?
15. Do you agree with Annes statement, “No woman has ever launched a war, and no woman ever could” (p. 166)? Do you agree when she proposes, “Anywhere that women live free of men, they live with legs” (p. 186)? Do you think this is a feminist novel?
16. Why did Phillips make Joseph an ex-military man? What about Josephs foreigner status? How do these aspects of the character affect our opinions of him and the opinions of the characters in the novel?
17. In Angelica, some characters are or were actors, they speak in the dialogue of classic plays, and they go to the theater together. Why does Phillips use theater metaphors throughout the novel?
18. What do you think Phillips is saying about perception, reality, illusions, and dreams with Angelica?
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