Editor (Rowley) - Discussion Questions

Discussion Questions
1. The Editor is centered on a woman who looms larger than life in our history: Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. How did the Jackie of the novel compare to your own imaginings of the former first lady?

2. Ithaca, as both a place and a story, is a recurring idea in the novel. Do you think it takes on a particular meaning? If so, what is it?

3. Imagine you had the opportunity to work closely with a major historical figure. Who would you pick?

4. James has been a struggling writer for years. But his big break isn’t a happy one initially. How does it affect his relationships, with Daniel, with his family? What does his success do to his own sense of self and personal history?

5. As his editor, Jackie pushes James to reconnect with his family in order to write a more authentic ending to his novel. How do you think realism and personal intimacy impact storytelling? Are endings that ring more true ultimately more satisfying?

6. In her own way, Jackie slowly reveals parts of her personal life to James over the course of their relationship. How does this change James’s perception of her?

7. The book’s epigraph comes from the musical Camelot by Lerner and Loewe, and Jackie herself references Camelot in a later scene with James. President Kennedy was said to be attracted to the Arthurian legend, the idea that history is made by great heroes with moral clarity, and the idea of a Camelot has become a shorthand for the Kennedys’ brief time in the White House. What acts of heroism does James see in both Jackie and his mother?

8. Talk about the different endings James strives to achieve throughout the story: with the manuscript, with his father, with his biological father, with his mother. How are each of these connected? Do any of them lead to the others, and are they ever really achieved?

9. What do you imagine happens next for James? For his mother? For Daniel?

10. Like James, would you ever write a novel about your real life? How would you balance the autobiographical and the fictional? Would you ever feel comfortable sharing it with your family and friends?
(Questions issued by the publisher.)

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