Maze at Windermere (Smith) - Discussion Questions

Discussion Questions
We'll add publisher questions if and when they're available; in the meantime, use our LitLovers talking points to help start a discussion for The Maze of Windermere … then take off on your own:

1. Were you able to keep characters and time frames straight, especially during the early pages of the novel? Or were you disoriented by the frequent cycling through five different stories?

2. Consider the primary characters in each of the stories—the tennis player, writer, bachelor/dandy, British officer, and Quaker girl. Do you find some more compelling, or more sympathetic, than others?

3. (Follow-up to Question 2) In what way are the characters in each of the stories morally compromised?

4. Notice how diligently Gregory Blake Smith shifts the tone and language in each story, keeping them appropriate to the time frame. Can you point to some of those stylistic changes?

5. How does the author begin to weave these seemingly separate stories together? Or, using another metaphor, can you find echos from older stories in more recent ones (e.g., the tennis player walking by the cemetery)?

6. The young writer (presumably Henry James) thinks about how he must portray his characters:

…in all their complexity, all their blind groping, engaged … in the hubbub of connection … where clarity lies remote and … to have them feel the beats of their hearts though they may not know for what their hearts beat.

• Might that description fit the state of humanity—in real life, not just in fiction—for all of us?

7. What is the significance of the title to the story?

8. Talk about the novel's ending, when the various time frames seem to collapse in on one another. What might the author be suggesting about the workings of history, about the universality of love and morality? Again, consider the young Henry James's words:

We each of us strive to understand who we are, why we are here, to love and be loved, and that for all that striving, we are each of us lost in the mystery of our own heart.

(Questions by LitLovers. Please feel free to use them, online and off, with attribution. Thanks.)

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