Janice Galloway, Clara
1. Were you familiar with the real life story of any of these characters? If so, how did you find the novel's treatment of them? If not, were you inspired to learn more about them?
2. What kinds of details are provided in the first scene? As Clara looks at her reflection in the water, how does the author paint a striking and full picture of our heroine? "Touch [the surface] and it breaks. For all that, it's not fragile. Watch and what scatters on the water's surface comes whole again, the same as before." How do images like this shed light on what is to come for Clara?
3. In what ways does the author's writing style -- succinct, controlled prose that evokes startling images -- reflect the world of the novel itself? How does the contained yet beautifully evocative writing help to reveal the nature of Clara's playing?
4. In the early 1800s, the stereotypical crazy man -- a sex-crazed maniac akin to a beast -- is the only version of insanity or mental illness that people recognized. In what ways do these popular conceptions of "madmen" hinder Clara from seeing the extent of her husband's illness? How do you think Robert's life (and therefore Clara's life) might have been different had he been born in modern times? Do you think he would be diagnosed with a mental illness?
5. Robert Schumann was, if not a musical genius, then certainly a prodigious talent in his own right, and yet he was an utter failure as a conductor. How does his exp