Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Child of the Twilight - Book Group Questions

• Twilight is the dangerous time when nothing is quite as it seems. In what sense is Sydney a ‘child of the twilight’?

• The theft of the statue represents a serious interference to the order of things. Throughout the novel the idea of ‘interference’ looms large: Sydney’s conception, Diana’s manipulations, Barnaby’s work as a surgeon, to name a few instances. These are worldly interferences. However there is also a more mystical side to interference in the form of prayers offered and prayers answered. When is interference a good thing?

• How significant are our biological origins in shaping our identities?

• In Rosita’s imagination the ‘wellbeing of mankind was being held together with prayer’. Does the novel portray tragedy and disaster as a result of a stitch being dropped in the embroidery of the Divine Heart prayers?

• In her own art, Cora refers to Jan Van Eyck’s Marriage of the Arnolfini but in quite startling ways. What does this say about her and her attitudes to marriage and fertility?

• Do you think that the school staff – in particular the headmistress, Dr Silver reacted appropriately to Cora Mean’s accident in the art room?

• What roles do Furta Sacra (holy theft) and miracles play in the Child of the Twilight? How do these ideas affect the way the characters see our world?

• ‘Fiction is the perfect place to put the facts,’ says Sydney. What are the advantages for her telling her story as fiction rather than fact?

• The novel uses a number of symbols of fertility – in particular the Black Madonna. What does the Black Madonna represent to Sydney? To Diana?

• What do you think Sydney believes was most influential in creating her life – science or her mother’s prayers?

• How reliable is Sydney as narrator?

• Rufus’ father is involved in the MOSE project in Venice. What is the symbolic significance of this project in the lives of Cora and Rufus?

• The characters are described by their attributes – Corazon the Fertile, Diana the Manipulator, Cosimo the Trickster. This gives the narrative a quality of fable or mystery play. How effective is this technique in a novel of today?

• Assisted Reproductive Technology, with its acronym ART provides the impetus or the germ of the novel, and there is a great deal of ‘art’ in the usual sense also. How do these to two interpretations of ‘art’ function together?

• How do you think Roland’s life was shaped by the violent death of his twin sister?

• The old painting of the indigenous Madonna in the church in Tasmania has previously escaped Diana’s notice. What is the significance of her realisation of its existence?
• Both Sydney and Cosimo can never know their genetic origins. In what ways does this fact affect their lives and their outlook?

• Sydney has a cold, practical and unromantic attitude to reproduction, describing herself as being simply genetic material. Do you find this sad?

• What is your opinion of Sydney’s morality with regard to reading Edith’s diary and extracting its secrets?

• Eleena was killed during a cricket match. What are the roles of games and accident and destiny in the novel?

• Why do you think Sydney’s imaginary friends are native Americans?

• The narrative criss-crosses the globe. Even Rosita the Spinster finally makes it from Australia to Europe, and it seems that there have been English Vinnecombes in rural Tasmania. What is the significance of these migrations?

• What is the significance of Barnaby’s work as an eye surgeon?

• What is the significance of Avila’s business ‘Marriages Performed at Sea’?

• A miracle is something that can not be explained except by divine intervention. What is your response to ‘miracles”?
• How important is it to know where your genetic material comes from?

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