‘The Book of V.’ Discussion and Book Group Guide
The next One Book, One Hadassah national book club pick is The Book of V., written by award-winning author Anna Solomon. Join Hadassah Magazine’s Lisa Hostein on August 20 at 7:00 pm EDT for a live online interview with Solomon about her new novel, reimagining biblical figures, Jewish motherhood and much more. Register here for the event.
Local book groups are a vital part of Hadassah for many members. If your chapter doesn’t already have a book group, now’s the time to start one! We encourage groups to have their own discussions about The Book of V. either before or after the interview.
To facilitate those discussions, we are happy to present the following Discussion Guide. Please distribute it to your book groups.
- How are the three main protagonists, Lily, Vee and Esther, similar, and how are they different? Why do you think the author chose to include this diverse range of voices? Do you relate more to one of these women than the others, and why?
- The story of Esther is familiar to many Jewish readers (and has a special connection to Hadassah members since the organization was founded on Purim). Why do you think the author chose to incorporate Esther’s tale into the novel? What do you think of the author’s reframing of the Esther and Vashti story? Do you think her retelling is justified by biblical text or midrash?
- In the book’s opening chapter, Lily characterizes the story of Esther in this way: “Really all you need to know, and all anyone remembers anyway, is that the second Queen, Esther, is the hero.” Do you agree with Lily’s appraisal? Why or why not?
- The king chooses Esther in part, he says, because: “You were the only one who didn’t try to hide yourself.” Then Esther transforms herself. What role does her transformation play in the novel? What role do masks, makeup and costumes play—in the novel and in your own life? Do women have to transform themselves to succeed in today’s world? Why, or why not?
- The theme of motherhood runs through the novel. How do the characters relate to their children and their own mothers? Is motherhood essential to a woman’s identity—in either Solomon’s universe or in real life?
- Talk about the husbands in The Book of V. How are they similar, or different? Discuss their relationships with their respective wives; what are some of the hallmarks of each?
- Women’s equality is another theme is woven throughout the stories in The Book of V. How do the characters try to take power for themselves? Discuss Vee’s alternate identity as Letty Loveless, advice columnist in a women’s magazine. Did the revelation of this identity surprise you? Why do you think the author chose this role for her?
- Vee, Lily and Rosemary all grapple with questions of identity, ranging from their gender roles to their religion. What are some examples of their personal struggles to define themselves?
- The novel opens with a quote from Elizabeth Cady Stanton: “I have always regretted that the historian allowed Vashti to drop out of sight so suddenly.” Why do you think the author chose this quote? What do you think it means in context of what happens in The Book of V.?
- At the end of the book, Lily looks ahead to what she will teach her daughters: “The type of woman you imagine yourself becoming does not exist.” What does she mean, and do you agree with this assessment?