The Violet Hour

A Novel

The Violet Hour

A pitch-perfect, emotionally riveting debut novel about the fracturing of a marriage and a family – from an award-winning young writer with superb storytelling instincts.

Life hasn’t always been perfect for Abe and Cassandra Green, but an afternoon on the San Francisco Bay might be as good as it gets. Abe is a rheumatologist, piloting his coveted new boat. Cassandra is a sculptor, finally gaining modest attention for her art. Their beautiful daughter, Elizabeth, is heading to Harvard in the fall. Somehow, they’ve made things work. But then, out of nowhere, they plunge into a terrible fight. Cassandra has been unfaithful. In a fit of fury, Abe throws himself off the boat.

A love story that begins with the end of a marriage, The Violet Hour follows a modern family through past and present, from the funeral home in the Washington suburbs where Cassandra and her siblings grow up to the San Francisco public health clinic where Abe and Cassandra first meet. As the Greens navigate the passage of time—the expectations of youth, the concessions of middle age, the headiness of desire, the bitterness of loss—they must come to terms with the fragility of their intimacy, the strange legacies they inherit from their parents, and the kind of people they want to be. Exquisitely written, The Violet Hour is the deeply moving story of a family suddenly ripped apart, but then just possibly reborn.
  • Scribner | 
  • 368 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781476710327 | 
  • July 2013

Read an Excerpt

Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for The Violet Hour includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.


One summer afternoon, Abe, Cassandra, and their daughter Elizabeth set sail in the family’s new boat. As they’re celebrating Elizabeth’s acceptance to Harvard, a secret is revealed: Cassandra has been unfaithful. Abe leaps from the sailboat, swimming ashore and effectively out of their lives. But when Cassandra’s father dies unexpectedly, the family must come together once again to reconcile the present with the past. In The Violet Hour, Katherine Hill has crafted a transcendent tapestry of love, desire, ambition, and renewal.

Topics & Questions for Discussion

1. The Violet Hour moves back and forth through time. How did this narrative structure enhance your understanding of the characters and story? How would a chronologically straightforward story be different?

2. The novel is told through numerous viewpoints. How would it be different if, for example, Abe had narrated the PTA fundraiser, or if Eunice had narrated Cassandra’s childhood in the funeral home? How do the author’s see more

About the Author

Katherine Hill
Photograph by Matt Karp

Katherine Hill

Katherine Hill is a graduate of Yale University and holds an MFA from the Bennington Writing Seminars. Her writing has been published by AGNIThe BelieverBookforumColorado ReviewThe Common, n+1, and the San Francisco Chronicle. She is an assistant editor at Barrelhouse,and lives with her husband in Princeton, New Jersey.