Reading Group Guide for Gioia Diliberto's I Am Madame X
1. In Chapter 1, Virginie Amelie Avegno Gautreau (Madame X) surmises that her "unconscious mind" dwells in the Old South. Throughout the novel, Madame X is extremely nostalgic about the old days at Parlange. Why do you think she never returned to permanently to New Orleans?
2. In the final chapter Virginie admits: "I believe my life would have been easier if we hadn't moved to France." Do you agree? If so, describe how life was harder for Virginie as an American in Paris. How would have been easier in New Orleans?
3. Of the two settings, Paris and New Orleans, which do you find more appealing, more visceral?
4. Discuss the narrative voice of Madame X. What does her telling of the story reveal about her as a character? Do you find her narcissistic? Insecure? Does Virginie recognize her own beauty or is her self-esteem based on other people's commentary?
5. Describe Virginie's relationship with her mother. How did the mother-daughter dynamic affect Virginie's relationship with men? With other women? With her own daughter?
6. Do you think Virginie would have been as socially ambitious were it not for her mother's influence? Do you feel she was prematurely thrust into the social scene? If so, what were the consequences?
7. The author, Gioia Diliberto, says that she found John Singer Sargent's 1884 portrait of Madame X to be "extraordinarily modern." Discuss how the painting affects y