This week we move into chapters 9-20 and some very emotional and powerful scenes play out. In fact, you might want to bring some tissues with you…
Discussion Questions: Chapters 9-20
1) At the beginning of chapter 9 Julia says no to Gabriel…he doesn’t react very well to the rejection but it’s interesting as to why…”He needed to make love to her to know that it was all right - that they were all right” Have you ever experienced that kind of feeling? Of needing physical reassurance?
Tamie: I really love the way SR crafts his stories and this is a great example of what I’m talking about. I thought that Julia was rejecting him physically because she was upset with him. I felt the pain of that rejection for Gabriel, and then a few pages later it’s revealed that something entirely different was going on. SR does that a lot…sometimes I think to myself…Tamie are you never going to learn? Things aren’t always what they appear to be with this couple. There is no predictability in the way SR writes. I love when an author is able to do that…keep me surprised and glued to the book. As for the question…yes…I have experienced those feelings…that need for physical contact. Sometimes a hug or a cuddle will suffice, but sometimes not.
Elena: I agree completely. I love the way SR surprises his readers. While reading I often tried to make a few guesses and then I always had to take back what I had initially thought…In this scene I too thought Julia was rejecting Gabriel because of what happened that afternoon and I felt for both during that particular scene-for Julia because of the terrible day she had, a day where all the insecurities came back to nag her and for Gabriel, because he was not able to express how much he loved Julia through the act of making love. I found the whole exchange between Julia and Gabriel very interesting, especially because we get to see how Gabriel reacts in front of a real rejection. We saw him angry and frustrated when Julia said no to him in the museum, but I never saw that ”no” as a real rejection, because the excitement was there. While in this scene there’re a lot of issues at hand. True, Julia wasn’t rejecting him because she didn’t want him, the reason was another, but the whole atmosphere between them was already tense and that made her rejection even more painful to Gabriel. As far as the other question goes, I am a person who needs physical reassurance, so yes.
2) In chapter 10 Gabriel and Julia are celebrating Christmas…what would YOU put in a stocking for Gabriel? What present would YOU like to receive from him?
Elena : Hmmm… Probably a cd with songs that are particularly dear to me. Then, let’s see…some argyle socks for him and for me ( you know for the playful times coughKitchenTablecough ) , a set of book ends painted and decorated with Botticelli’s images and a reproduction of “The Kiss” by Gustav Klimt. I’m very fond of that painting, for several reasons. And I’d also include some Baci Perugina As for what I’d like to receive from him, I’m sure whatever he decided to give me would be wonderful.
Tamie: Let’s see…I’d include a Mont Blanc fountain pen, a few pairs of uber sexy argyle socks, as well as some fine silk boxer shorts…MmmHmm, and because I happen to think it’s erm…stimulating to watch a guy shave I’d certainly include some sandalwood scented shaving soap and perhaps a new mug and shaving brush as well. Lastly, I’d include some sort of confectionary treats…chocolates, peppermints…O and a few mini bottles of Laphroaig. What would I like to get from Gabriel? Hehehe…ok aside from that…a poem or letter written from the heart…that’s all I’d want.
3) Richard says to Gabriel not to wait too long to make a commitment to Julia, because it could be too late. What do you think of Gabriel wanting to wait? Would you have agreed with him?
Elena : I understand Gabriel wanting to wait in order to give Julia room to pursue her dreams, and that’s honorable, but I have to say I agree with Richard. Sometimes we think we have all the time in the world, and then something happens and turns our lives upside down, leaving us with our own regret. Especially when love is involved I think we should grab every opportunity that’s given to us to stay with that person, and if we feel he’s THE person for us, I believe we shouldn’t wait to make a commitment, because we never know what could happen. I’m not saying it’s right to rush things, far from it. But if we are sure of our feelings for a person and there aren’t other external factors interfering, then why wait? There will never be an absolutely perfect time to do things. Problems and difficulties will always be there. So the sooner, the better, for me.
Tamie: Elena, I couldn’t agree more. Nobody knows what the future holds. None of us have a guarantee for tomorrow. Too often I think people spend way too much time and energy worrying about the future, and don’t give enough consideration to the here and now. We take people for granted. We expect that they’ll be around when “the time is right”, or worse “when I have the time”. We worry about being politically correct, or wonder if others will think we’re being too forward, too fast, too familiar…on and on. What I’m talking about is letting people know that they’re important to you…that they mean something…they have value to you. It doesn’t have to be a big production, or public. I realize that some people are uncomfortable with expressing emotions, but I have to ask…is your comfort level worth more than what it would mean to the person(s) you need to tell it to? My advice to Gabriel would be this…Carpe diem DOOD! …you might wake up one day and find yourself without, and how sad and wasteful is that?!? I saw an awesome quote on twitter that I want to share with all of you because there is so much truth in it… One day, you’ll be just a memory for some people. Do your best to be a good one.
Elena: Beautiful quote, Tamie. It brought tears to my eyes. Thanks for sharing it.
4) Julia’s discourse to Gabriel about the sticky little leaves is a very powerful one. What do you think about it and about the effect it had on Gabriel? What are your sticky little leaves?
Elena: The discourse about the sticky little leaves was wonderful and very touching. I find myself re-reading it often and it’s one of my favorite moments in the series. I loved what Julia said about goodness in the world. There’s a saying in Italy that says : “Trees that are cut down make more noise than those that grow.” There is goodness in the world, a lot of it, but it’s the evil that makes the news. I believe the discourse was a sort of epiphany for Gabriel, Julia gave him hope and made him see the world and what happens to us with different eyes. My sticky little leaves are my family, especially my parents, who always wanted to make sure I missed nothing, despite all the enormous difficulties they went through; I love them with all my heart. My friends, those in RL and also those whom I met through this wonderful book. And my faith in God.
Tamie: I thought it was stunning. It was so beautiful, touching and powerful, yet so simple. I was so emotionally moved by it that I stopped reading and just thought about it for a while. When I wrote my review I listed it as one of the things I FLOVED because I couldn’t get it out of my mind. I wanted to talk about it with somebody so bad, but I couldn’t because I was reading it as an ARC. It just about made me break one of my own rules which is no discussions with the author about the book until after my review is published. OMG! I started to email SR so many times…but I didn’t. It’s certainly one of my favorites as well. My sticky little leaves are my family, friends, and my belief in God. As for Gabriel, I think it had a powerful effect on him as well. I think Julia is his biggest sticky leaf, and she certainly opens his mind as well as his heart over and over again.
5) In chapter 11 Gabriel makes some new revelations about him and Paulina. Did your opinion of her change at this point of the novel? What about at the end of chapter 12 when we’re given a scene of Paulina in a motel room?
Tamie: I gotta admit I was shocked by the revelations. If I were Julia I swear I would have slapped him…several times, hard, and I am NOT a violent person. Then I probably would’ve started bawling my eyes out…ugly crying for sure. My opinion of Paulina didn’t really change until the motel room scene…that scene made me cry.
Elena: I had several reactions when I read Gabriel’s revelations. Like you Tamie, I was shocked and taken aback, cause I didn’t expect them. We see Julia being very hurt and stating to Gabriel she won’t put up with more lying on his part. The whole scene tore at my heartstrings, I was sad for Julia, who got hurt once again, and for Gabriel, whose past came to taunt him again and to present him with the clear possibility he could very well lose Julia at that moment. It makes me think back to chapter 31 of Gabriel’s Inferno, where Gabriel reveals his past to Julia for the first time and in both scenes we witness the power of forgiveness, something that always moves me. I admit I pity Paulina. On one hand, I don’t like how she constantly tries to reach for Gabriel and to break him and Julia up. Her attachment to him is one of a desperate woman, and it’s clearly shown from the fact that she doesn’t want to let him go. But on the other hand I feel compassion for her. Gabriel himself admits he slept for years with her without loving her while she did. Furthermore, she created a child with him, and that could have given her the chance to have a part of him forever and even that reality was taken away from her. I wanted her to find her own personal redemption. When I read the motel scene I had to stop reading for a second and regain my composure, cause tears fell. It was a touching scene.
6) In chapter 15 there’s a scene where Paul worries about what might have happened to Julia. Was there ever a moment when you thought Paul’s attentions toward her were too strong? What is your opinion of Paul in general?
Elena : I’ll be wordy here because, when it comes to Paul, I find myself having mixed feelings about him. On one hand, I believe he’s a great guy and an awesome friend to have. I’d gladly spend hours with him talking, going out for walks, having coffee, helping each other with our respective University work, in general doing what we usually do with dear friends. I particularly like him when he tries to protect Julia from Christa’s bitchiness and in all those moments when he behaves like a friend to her( and I stress the word “friend”) . I probably mentioned this before but there’s a scene where my fondness for Paul started and I’m talking about the Starbuck’s scene in Gabriel’s Inferno: Julia’s top strap falls off and he immediately puts it back into place covering her from prying eyes. He really showed his kindness in that scene and respect for women whereas others would have probably just ogled at her. But he can’t hold a candle to Gabriel Emerson. I’m irrevocably in love with the wonderful, complicated, charming, ever-so-hot character of Professor Emerson. I never rooted for Paul and Julia together, not even for a second. They’re great as friends, and I believe Paul is the best friend Julia could ever have, but that’s it. Her soulmate is Gabriel and Gabriel alone. Thus, yes, I believe Paul’s attentions sometimes were too strong towards Julia, especially since she told him she had a boyfriend. From that moment on Paul should have just taken a step back. I know, he was in love, but to keep being attached to a person who doesn’t reciprocate your feelings, takes away from you your own happiness. Sometimes it’s better to just let it go and see that person with different eyes, the eyes of friendship. I believe Paul was too invested into Julia and that made him act too strongly toward her than it was appropriate.
Tamie: O dear…I might make a lot of peeps unhappy with what I’m about to say, but I have to keep it real. Paul is not a favorite for me. Don’t get me wrong…I don’t dislike him. I would love to have him as a friend. He’s smart, caring…but there’s just something missing for me as far as any romantic/sexual feelings towards him, and I never thought for one minute that he belonged with Julia. Now I realize that my strong feelings for Gabriel color my perspective, but I think it’s a very rare situation when you don’t know that the feeling of attraction isn’t mutual, or is unreciprocated. Paul certainly knew that, and so I would answer yes, I did think his attentions were misplaced and too strong on more than one occasion.
7) What was your reaction when Julia received the letter from the Office of the Dean of Graduate Studies, and when Gabriel told Julia about Christa accusing him of sexual harassment to the University?
Tamie: I may have said WTF out loud…more than once. I wasn’t necessarily surprised because I knew Christa was going to do something drastic. I wasn’t expecting a twofold attack as was written, but I was waiting for bad stuff to happen. I’m telling you guys… my neighbors must think I’m an absolute nut sometimes. I read on my balcony…a lot, and I shudder to think how many times while I was reading this book that I laughed, cried, and O yes…I cursed, and then realized that peeps were passing by below. I’d sheepishly grin and hold up my Kindle, saying…great book. I got “the nod” many times.
Elena: Me too, Tamie. I actually jumped from the couch with the book in my hands and yelled “No way! This can’t be happening!” I was so mad both at Christa and the Dean…I think my neighbor heard my hysterics LOL!
8) Food and sensuality…In chapter 19 there’s a very sensual scene between Gabriel and Julia that involves a fruit…Is there a food you find particularly aphrodisiac?
Tamie: There are actually several foods that I find lend a certain umph…chocolate, avocados, strawberries, figs, and things with a very strong taste and scent of vanilla.
Elena: Chocolate for sure, honey and almonds.
9) Several times during these chapters we learn that Gabriel has withheld information from Julia…what are your thoughts on this? Also, is omission the same thing as lying?
Elena: I’m not pleased whenever he does this, both Gabriel and Julia end up hurting everytime despite his attempt to protect her. I understand that some things must be difficult to reveal to your partner but I also believe there has to be honesty in order to have a healthy relationship. As far as the other question goes, I think omission isn’t always the same thing as lying. It depends on the reason why we omit something. For example, in Gabriel’s Inferno Julia chooses to omit to say to Gabriel that she’s his Beatrice, the girl he met in the orchard. She doesn’t tell him because she doesn’t want to break him, because she’s good. “Sometimes goodness doesn’t tell everything it knows…” I believe it depends on the reason why we omit. True, sometimes even when we omit in order not to hurt someone, it can backfire. I admit it’s tricky. But I still believe omission and straight out lying are two different things.
Tamie: Every time Gabriel does this I feel extremely frustrated. Whether he’s doing it to “protect” Julia or himself is irrelevant to me. It always comes back to haunt him in some way, and he’s not a stupid man. Why doesn’t he learn from it? UGH! And you’re right Elena…Julia does it as well. I’m kind of on the fence where this is concerned, but overall I would agree that there is a difference between omission and straight out lying. Having said that I think it’s very clear that both can be equally damaging to a relationship. Once trust is lost it’s so hard to gain it back…sometimes it’s impossible.
10) What are your favorite sentence(s), paragraph, scene in these chapters?
Elena: sentences : -”I have become a great many things since you made me your lover.”
-” I would rather spend the rest of my life drinking your love, than emptying all the oceans in the world.”
-”I wandered in the darkness looking for something better, something real. I found you, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to lose you.”
paragraph: “Everyone wants to know where evil comes from and why the world is riddled with it. Why doesn’t anyone ask where goodness comes from? Human beings have a tremendous capacity for cruelty. Why is there any
goodness at all? Why are people like Grace and Richard so kind? Because there’s a God, and he hasn’t allowed the earth to be entirely corrupted. There are sticky little leaves, if you look for them. And when you
recognize them, you can feel His presence.”
Tamie: sentences: Julia laughed at the sight of him, this very proper professor sitting in his spectacles and underwear, attacking his presents like a four-year-old.
“I would never have pegged you as a cuddler, Professor Emerson.”
“You are my sticky little leaf.”
paragraph: It was a subtle language – this shared language of lovers: the reciprocation of sigh and groan, anticipation growing and feeding until groans became cries and cries became sighs once more. Gabriel’s body covered hers completely, a delicious weight of man and sweat and naked skin upon naked skin.
Here are the three questions and answers from SR that were selected this week. He also asked me to pass along his appreciation to all of you who are participating.
1) Gabriel seems to omit or withhold information from Julia quite often in these chapters. Is he being protective towards Julia, himself, or both? In your opinion is omission the same thing as lying?
With respect to the omission of information, I think Gabriel is protecting himself and Julia. He doesn’t want to lose her and so he tells himself that if he leaves out certain facts, that will increase the possibility that she will stay with him. And no doubt, he tells himself that an omission is not the same as lying. But when the facts are revealed, he’s faced with having to justify his behaviour to Julia. And as Julia points out, the withholding of information from a partner can be detrimental to the relationship.
2) In these chapters we begin to learn more about Katherine Picton’s personality. She’s one of my favorite characters in the story, even though I admit that I’d be very intimidated by her if I met her. What was it like for you to write this particular character?
Thank you. I enjoy Professor Picton a great deal and I’m glad she is a favourite amongst readers. I can imagine her played by Judi Dench and having a charming but no-nonsense approach to academic politics. If I were to write a third book, she would have to be included.
3) It was so difficult for me to come up with a question – so much happening in all these chapters! But, this is something that really resonated with me – after Gabriel opens his Christmas “gift” from Paulina and runs off to the orchard, he and Julia have a rather heated discussion. It seems that just when this couple takes a step forward, they fall two steps back with Gabriel retreating to safety and coldness (both represented in the safety of his orchard and the real cold in the air). You have a gift for writing such exchanges with an honesty and passion. When you are in that place writing such heartfelt, tumultuous exchanges, do you find that you can just let the words flow through your fingers to the pen (or keyboard) all in one sitting, or do you have to stop and collect your thoughts before you can continue?
Thanks very much for your kind words. Sometimes I’ll write an entire scene without a break. Sometimes I’ll write part of a scene and then I’ll be interrupted. But in all cases, each scene and each chapter goes through multiple revisions and rewrites to make sure that the dialogue is right.
Thank you SR…it really means a lot to us that you’re willing to share.
We love the idea of Judi Dench as Professor Picton, but even more we’d love a third book.
Wow! What a great discussion Elena and I had…very powerful topics don’t you think? Now we want to hear from all of you…
Tamie and Elena