Notes on “The Ladies of Missalonghi”

A reminder: I'll be posting my important thoughts here on or around June 27 and invite you to do the same. All I can say at this point is that I hope you're all still speaking to me after this book. I finished it yesterday and can't say I regret it, exactly, but I do suspect my near 30-year-old memory of loving it may have led us down a somewhat crooked path. In other news, I will not be re-reading Danielle Steel's "Palomino" anytime soon.

Here are some things to ponder while you read, borrowed mostly from the fiction guides at Book Browse and Lit Lovers:

  1. How did you experience the book? Were you engaged immediately, or did it take you a while to get into it? How did you feel reading it—amused, sad, disturbed, confused, bored...?
  2. What's the significance of the title?
  3. What is Missy's role in the family? What is her relationship to the other characters? How does it change throughout the story?
  4. Did you find the characters convincing? Do they seem alive to you? Did their actions make sense to you? Did you find them troubling? 
  5. Was the plot interesting? Did you find it engaging or formulaic? Believable? 
  6. Would you call the ending surprising or predictable? Does it unfold naturally or is it forced or manipulative? Is it satisfying, or would you prefer a different ending?
  7. What about the theme—the larger meaning behind the work? What ideas does McCullough explore with the story and characters, or the setting? What is she trying to say? Did she say it effectively?
  8. Does the setting color the telling of the story or is it merely a backdrop? What about the time period? Did you learn anything new?

If you have questions before we discuss, feel free to leave them in the comments. Thanks, sorry, and happy reading!

p.s. I came across an interesting aside yesterday in Colleen McCullough's obituary in the New York Times. A smarter person would probably have unearthed this news prior to reading the book but alas I am not that smart person:

She drew unwelcome attention in 1987 with the publication of her novella “The Ladies of Missalonghi,” about an impecunious woman in early-20th-century Australia. As some critics pointed out, the book’s plot, characters and narrative details strongly resembled those of “The Blue Castle,” a 1926 novel by L. M. Montgomery, the author of “Anne of Green Gables.”

How do you like them apples!? I haven't read the LMM book and definitely will not seek it out (everything that came after AoGG gave me cavities), but here's another take if you'd like to do some detective work of your own.