Synopses & Reviews
This is the summer that Lewis Little, precocious thirteen-year-old, is spending in Paris with his beautiful mother, Alice, who is translating the latest medieval romance by Valentina Gavrilovich, the bestselling and exotic Russian émigré. This is the summer that the bewitching Valentina beckons from her sofa, and Lewis discovers an exquisite new world filled with passion and intrigue, set against the alluring backdrop of Paris.
But when Valentina disappears and Lewis takes it upon himself to find her, wondrous secrets suddenly turn sinister. This is the summer that Lewis, caught in a bizarre and dangerous romance, is about to face head-on the perilous force that transforms children into adults.
About the Author
Rose Tremain is the author of seven novels, including the bestselling Restoration, which received the Sunday Express Book of the Year Award in 1989, was shortlisted for the Booker Prize, and was made into an Academy Award®-winning film in 1995. Sacred Country won both the James Tait Memorial Prize and the Prix Femina Etranger in France. Ms. Tremain lives in London and Norwich, England.
Reading Group Guide
Reading Group Guide
1. In the book, Lewis is geographically distanced from his father and emotionally distanced from his mother. Does any character (or characters) in the story take on a surrogate parental role for him? How?"
2. What factors contribute to Lewis' strained relationship with his mother? Is it simply teen angst connected with entering young adulthood, or is it something else? How is this shown in the story?
3. Several times in the novel, Lewis reflects on his ideas about how he perceives things. This manifests itself in several ways, including the different perceptions he and his mother have about Valentina. How do you feel leaving Devon for Paris has changed Lewis' perceptions, and in what ways?
4. Didier and Baba both play significant roles in Lewis' life during his time in Paris. What characteristics do you think he finds in them that he doesn't in Alice or Valentina? Would it be fair to say that Didier and Baba are from a different world than Alice and Valentina? Why?
5. Lewis and Valentina both share a desire to transcend their situations -- Lewis wants to abandon family life on the coast of Devon for the romance of Continental Europe, while Valentina hopes to never return to the life she led as a poor Russian immigrant. As a popular writer, does Valentina ever succeed in burying her immigrant girlhood? At the novel's end, did Lewis succeed in any transcendence of his own?
6. Among the posh rooms of Valentina's Paris apartment is the cluttered junk room where she secretly stows away things that belonged to Anton, her father. How does this represent the way she views her past?
7. At different points in the book, Lewis mentions that his father said he should think of his life as a rock pool and his quota of happiness as tiny little shrimp in the pool so he would never be disappointed. In what ways does Lewis adhere to his father's advice?
8. In most of the novel, Lewis lives in a world of imagination, whether he is living out the lives of characters from the books he reads, or the imaginary walks he takes during his abduction by Alexis. In the last chapter, Lewis is older. How would you characterize the older Lewis, and how has he changed?
9. The reader is never fully aware of the exact details of Alice's relationship with Didier or Valentina's ultimate fate. What effects does this have? What does it lead you to believe about the two incidents?
10. In the last chapter, what is the significance of Lewis' sending the remote control car to Pozzi and keeping in touch with Grisha?
11. Does the formulaic logic of mathematics, in some way, become a substitute for something Lewis has lost during the course of the novel?