Synopses & Reviews
After more than twenty years of life in London, Jean and Mark Hubbard decamp to a remote tropical island in the Indian Ocean. But when Jean, a health columnist, discovers a salacious love letter addressed to her husband, she realizes that she has misdiagnosed some acute pathologies in her own life. The long idyll of their mutual ease is over - and a new quest has just begun. Looking for answers, Jean goes undercover with a surreptitious correspondence that propels her on to alarming and illuminating adventures of her own. Isabel Fonseca explores the impulses that color and disrupt our lives even as they reveal, ever more clearly, the nature of love.
About the Author
In addition to her best-selling Bury Me Standing, Isabel Fonseca has written for a wide range of publications, including The Independent, Vogue, The Nation, and TheWall Street Journal. Born in New York, she was educated at Columbia and Oxford and lives in London with her husband, Martin Amis, and their two daughters.
Reading Group Guide
1. What do you think ultimately compels Jean to correspond with Giovana, pretending to be her husband? A sense of propriety? A perverse curiosity? How would you describe her complex motivations? What would you
do if you were in her position?
2. In what ways is this a novel about the differences between men and women? How does the author challenge (and/or maintain) standard notions of such a divide? Would you describe this as feminist literature?
3. What kind of role do you think Jean's family played in her falling in love with Mark? How did her brother's death, her mother's critical eye, and her father's stoic detachment lead her to Mark? How does the author probe this question?
4. How do you think Jean's “Americanism” informs her outlook? In what ways does the novel explore the differences between American and British women (and men)?
5. Does Mark remain a mystery at the end of the novel? A mystery both to Jean and to the reader? What do you think the author's intentions were in this respect?
6. How does the author use humor in Attachment? Discuss specific examples.
7. Where does Jean seem happiest—in St. Jacques, London, or New York? Or does she only seem happy in her memories of these places? Discuss the role of memory in defining happiness.
8. Why do you think the author chose to invent an island (St. Jacques) when the other settings are recognizable—e.g., New York and London?
9. “Paradise Lost” is a theme in the book. Is St. Jacques a kind of Eden, and, if so, what role does it play? What other forms of lost Eden may be detected in the novel and what is the author getting at with this investigation?
10. Is “Eden” always a place, or can it be a time of one's life—the past, for example—or childhood? How does Jean's accession to knowledge alter her sense of herself and her world?
11. Where does Jean belong? And what is her sense of belonging? Is the idea of “home” important in the novel? How does that idea change over time?
12. Jean seems restless. How does nostalgia affect Jean, and each of us, as we age?
13. Attachment has an adultery plot. But is the book primarily about betrayal? To what extent does the protagonist's shifting feeling about aging influence her sense of her own life story?
14. Why does Jean wait so long to confront Mark? Is it because of fear? Because of love? Do her decisions in this respect make her old-fashioned? If so, how is she also a modern woman?
15. On page 128, the author uses the seasons as a metaphor for one's life, suggesting that there is a natural progression to it. Do you agree? How does Attachment challenge this notion? How does it support it?
16. Two themes in Attachment are competition and talent. How do the different characters manage these behaviors? Which of them are more or less adept at it? How do these themes effect the action of the novel? And Jean's character as a lawyer turned writer?
17. How does the author use irony to create suspense in Attachment? Discuss, for example, Dan and Sophie's roles in the novel.
18. Attachment is a novel about husbands and wives—but it is also a story about families. Discuss the ways in which the author depicts the modern family. Do some relationships feel more realistic than others? Which ones do you wish the author had explored further?
19. To some extent—the author seems to suggest—we live our lives in our heads. Discuss the way Jean's imagination, her sense of ideals, her morality, and her fear are manifested in her mistakes. Is Jean's rich inner life ultimately a burden? In what ways it is also an asset in this story?
20. Toward the end of the novel, Jean pleads that she doesn't know who her friends are yet. What role does friendship play in Attachment—and, more generally, in our adult lives?
21. Regret is a powerful and often shifting force in Attachment. How does regret affect the actions of the characters in this novel? For example, what does Jean and Larry's relationship tell us about the sacrifices we make in life, and how we manage regretting them?
22. Is Mark a sympathetic character? In what ways would this novel be different if the narration were shared between Jean and Mark? That is, if we had access to Mark's voice, without Jean's filter? Would Mark have been a more sympathetic character?
23. If you could add an epilogue to Attachment, what do you think it would be about? Where do you think Jean's world—her marriage, her family, her career—is headed? Do you think the novel ends satisfactorily?
24. The author seems to relish her ability to shock readers. What would you say was the most shocking revelation in Attachment? Discuss how it changed your relationship with the characters and with the book.
“Fearless. . . . Fonseca shows off a vicious humor and an unsparing prose style in this ink-dark foray into marriage's murkier precincts.”
The introduction, questions, and suggestions for further reading that follow are designed to enliven your group's discussion of Attachment, Isabel Fonseca's provocative novel about desire, the responsibility that comes with age and family, and the impulses that color and disrupt our lives even as they reveal, ever more clearly, the nature of love.