I have to share something that’s kind of funny even though both Elena and I felt like two dorks when it was discovered. Both of us made a goof with one of the questions we originally posted. One referred to a scene from chapter 20…which is from last week, and then one went into something that happens in chapter 34…which isn’t til next week. So…those two q’s have been removed…go ahead…you can laugh…we did
Now go on and see how we answered the questions that were left…
Discussion Questions- Chapters 21-33
1) In these chapters we see two women helping Julia : Soraya, Julia’s attorney and Nicole, Julia’s therapist. Your thoughts on those two characters.
Elena: I’m really fond of Nicole’s character, she’s a very thoughtful woman who helps Julia analyze her relationship with Gabriel in the right way. She’s definitely very good at what she does. On the contrary, I don’t like Soraya that much, I always have the feeling she doesn’t particularly feel for her clients but she mostly has success on her mind.
Tamie: I’m right there with you Elena. There are so many different types of therapies that a Psychiatrist or a Psychologist can employ. Although I don’t necessarily agree with all of Nicole’s assertions, it’s important for Julia to think rather than to just feel. In order to be emotionally healthy there needs to be a balance between logic and emotion, and that can be very difficult to achieve, especially if you’re a survivor of any type of abuse as Julia is. I believe that Nicole’s guidance will be extremely beneficial for Julia. As for Soraya…not a fan. I too think her motivations are suspect.
2) In chapter 23 the University conflict continues to grow, and the hearing takes place. Both Gabriel and Julia’s lawyers form separate strategies that neither shares with their clients. What do you think about this behavior? Would the hearing later on have gone differently if Gabriel and Julia had been kept better informed? Do you think they would’ve gone along with the strategies? Why or why not?
Tamie: I have to admit that I don’t know jack about lawyers, so I’m not sure whether or not this would be the norm, but it feels wrong to me to make that kind of decision without at least preparing your client for what you’re about to do. I realize that both John and Soraya are doing what they think is best, but as well as John seems to know Gabriel I wouldn’t have thought he’d plan something behind Gabriel’s back and expect that it would go well. I think Soraya has her own agenda and feels that Julia is too naive to know any better. For me it was just all kinds of wrong. I do think the hearing would have gone very differently because Gabriel never would have allowed it… had he known. I don’t think Julia would’ve either…but for sure the G man we all know and love would’ve said “Fuck no” to John.
Elena: I agree with everything you said. I too don’t know much about lawyers and legal proceedings but I believe both John and Soraya had their own agenda, and it was a wrong one. I definitely think that if Gabriel and Julia had been kept better informed things might have ended differently. And I’m positive that neither Gabriel nor Julia would have agreed with those strategies.
3) Love scenes… In chapter 23 something changes in the way Gabriel makes love to Julia. What are your thoughts in general on the sex scenes that are in the novel?
Elena: I love them. I love absolutely everything about them. They’re erotic and tender at the same time and they perfectly convey the love Gabriel and Julia feel for one another. I can safely say they’re the most sensual love scenes I’ve ever read in a novel and I want to congratulate SR on the way he writes them. The love scene in chapter 23 was very passionate, but I could sense something was wrong with the way Gabriel was making love to Julia. It was as if he was desperate and as if he was feeling he was going to lose her. He didn’t say a word while loving her and we all know how Gabriel always wanted to make sure Julia knew how he felt during those special intimate moments.
Tamie: There are so many different ways an author can choose to write love scenes, and lovemaking. They can be slow burn, tender, passionate, graphic, fade to black…and I like all of those when they’re written well. That’s the key for me. If an author can make me feel the way I want to feel as a love scene plays out, then I’m fine with however it plays out. I love the sensuality that SR writes in his love scenes. It does what it’s supposed to do, and makes me feel. The love scene in chapter 23 was a huge surprise for me. When I was reading this part in GR for the first time I had to stop and think about it…that’s not something I normally do on a first reading of a book, but it was just so different that it kind of demanded it. I’m really curious as to how others were thinking and feeling when they read it.
4) In chapter 26 an exchange between Gabriel and Julia takes place in the hallway after they have left the hearing. What were you thinking as you read this? Did Gabriel surprise you with how he handled the situation? What was your reaction when he quoted Hamlet?
Tamie: This whole scene was full of WTF moments for me. I clenched my jaw so many times during this part that my dentist would’ve had a stroke if he’d been sitting near me. I knew there was something more going on with Gabriel than what I was reading, and I kept saying no, no, no…this cannot be happening. I can be very stubborn and tenacious, so on the one hand I think I would’ve either chased after him like an idiot, or camped out in his apartment til he showed up. On the other hand, if I truly believed what he was doing…that he was saying goodbye for good… I would’ve been so hurt that I would’ve gone somewhere alone to hide. I’m like Julia in that I’m no good at clues or veiled references most of the time. Just give it to me straight Gabriel. I mean couldn’t he have whispered something that made it more clear? Something? Anything?
Elena: I actually cried in that scene. I didn’t want to acknowledge what was happening, I kept living in denial till the end of the chapter. And then…tears fell again. I felt something more was going on with Gabriel than what he was letting show, as if he was hiding something, but I just didn’t know what it was. I was surprised and sad at the same time. When he quoted Hamlet I was stunned.
5) In chapter 27 Julia returns to Gabriel’s apartment…as she’s leaving she has a conversation with his neighbor who happens to have the initials S.I.R…discuss
Tamie: This is another great example of how SR can make his readers zoom from one emotion to another and then back again in the space of a few pages, or even a few paragraphs. I was feeling all weepy and sad as Julia went through Gabriel’s apartment. I’m reading along and doing some major sniffling, and them BAM! I get hit with “Here,” a voice at her elbow said, holding out a man’s handkerchief. Julia took it gratefully, noticing the embroidered initials S.I.R. on it…Ok peeps, I had to stop right there and reread that a few times and it made me smile. I mean did anybody get past that and not immediately think SR?!? I thought to myself…Well that was just damn clever…clever like a FOX, and it reminded me of how Hitchcock would insert himself just for the briefest moment in his films. Definitely makes for a memorable moment…and then a few paragraphs later when Julia says “Just tell him that he broke my heart.” I was in full sob mode again, saying “mine too Julia…mine too.”
Elena: That was a brilliant scene. My mind immediately went to SR and I thought of the movie cameos. It was very, very clever. Gabriel’s neighbor is definitely a very kind man
6) In chapter 28 Gabriel thinks about what it feels like to be banished and he thinks about Odysseus. The novel teems with literature references like this one, that often reflect Gabriel and Julia’s feelings. Discuss.
Elena: I love all the literature references both in Gabriel’s Inferno and Gabriel’s Rapture. I believe it’s one of the many things that make these books so unique. They’re perfectly interwoven to the plot and the love story and they definitely make you want to go and read all the works of literature mentioned in these wonderful books. SR puts astounding knowledge in the story, every time I turn a page I feel enriched on so many levels.
Tamie: I agree Elena, besides being beautiful and romantic stories, both Gabriel’s Inferno and Gabriel’s Rapture take us into a world full of art, music, literature, and learning. It was unexpected the first time I read Gabriel’s Inferno, and it was such a delight. It’s fun to look up the various things that SR shares with us. In both books some things were new, and some were old friends I reaquainted myself with.
7) In chapter 29 it’s said that the loss of Gabriel means a lot of things to Julia–not only the loss of the man she loved, but also of her virginity, of the ideal of deep and reciprocated love…In previous chapters we saw Gabriel seeing Julia, not only as his beloved, but also as the embodiment of the four loves, as his Muse… What do you think of this kind of attachment between two people? Do you consider it as putting your loved one on a pedestal far too high, or as a way of expressing your unconditional love towards another person?
Elena: I believe it’s a way of expressing our unconditional love towards our beloved and to show him that he means a great deal to us. I love it when Gabriel and Julia show their feelings like that. Of course, it has its risks, since we can end up making an idol of that person and that’s not the right thing to do both to us and the person we love. We’re all human and we all make mistakes, I believe it’s important to keep that in mind in relationships. Sometimes putting someone on a pedestal far too high can be detrimental to a relationship, cause most of the times we can’t live up to that. It makes me think back to a conversation between Gabriel and Julia on pagan love. I believe even unconditional love must have its balance and we should love one person for what he is, with his flaws and his qualities, with the knowledge that none of us is perfect.
Tamie: When you love someone deeply, and passionately it can be easy to put them on a pedestal, easy to overlook the flaws that each one of us has. Inevitably, the person you place there will misstep in some way, because no one is perfect. It may be a cliché to say that love is blind, but to a degree it is, and maybe we all need at least a little bit of blindness in order to love fully. Unconditional love is hard to do and hard to come by…again, because we are human. We have needs and desires that we want our loved one to fulfill, and when they aren’t able to it can be a hard truth to deal with.
8) In chapter 29 Julia says “I try not to give in to the anger, but trust me, it’s there”. Your thoughts on this statement and on how Julia handled being abandoned by Gabriel. If you were in Julia’s place would you have handled things any differently?
Tamie: Ugh! This is such a hard question to answer…I know what it feels like to lose a love unexpectedly. It feels like a death, and you have to go through a grieving period. It’s so hard to get to that final stage of acceptance. The anger part can be so destructive if you aren’t careful. I thought she handled it better than I would have in her place.
Elena: I admire Julia for a lot of things and also for how she handled the whole situation. I probably wouldn’t have been able to face up to Gabriel’s abandonment with the strength she had. And as far as the anger goes, I’m a bit like Julia in this. Sometimes I have people telling me that I should be more bad ass and stuff like that, but it’s not in my character and I also believe I wouldn’t accomplish anything by showing anger. Of course anger is there sometimes, especially when we get hurt of humiliated but I believe it’s far more rewarding showing kindness than anything else.
9) Your favorite sentence(s), paragraph and scene in these chapters.
Elena: Favorite sentence : “Had any man ever loved, adored, worshipped a woman more?”
Favorite paragraph : “He cursed bitterly. What use was it to be anywhere, if she wouldn’t forgive him? Even in the hotel, she was with him. On his computer, on his cell phone, in his iPod, in his head. Oh, yes, in his head. He was correct when he said that he would never forget what it felt like to gaze upon her naked body for the first time, the way her eyes were fixed on the floor,shyly, the way her face flushed under his heated touch.”
Favorite scene: the first time Julia dreams about Gabriel coming back and feels his presence in chapter 29.
Tamie: Favorite sentence: “Shards of crystal like jagged icicles scattered over the hardwood, glimmering in the firelight.”
Favorite paragraph: “In every room he had a memory of her – some of them joyous and others bittersweet, like dark, dark chocolate. He stalked to the dining room and poured himself two fingers’ worth of his very best Scotch and downed it quickly, relishing the burning sensation as it stung his throat. He tried desperately not to think about Julia standing in front of him, jabbing an angry finger into his chest.”
Favorite scene: Even though these chapters are heavy-duty on the sad emotions I had several favorites, but I narrowed it down to two for the discussion. The first is when Julia visits Gabriel’s apartment in chapter 27, and the second immediately follows in chapter 28 with Gabriel in his apartment.
Here are the three questions and answers from SR that were selected this week. He also asked me to pass along his thanks to the readers for their questions.
1) When Gabriel comes to Julia’s apartment he’s been drinking and as you wrote he was “frantic and desperate.” It’s not the Gabriel we’ve seen up to this point where sex is concerned. Is the old Gabriel reappearing? Did he make love to her or just have sex? What did he mean when he said “I am talking to you,” he whispered, pressing insistent kisses across her shoulder. “You aren’t listening.” Why did he leave her and not leave a note or something? Was this hard for you to write? I’m so confused in this part.
In order to understand Gabriel’s motivation, you have to imagine that the thing you want and desire the most is about to be taken away from you. What would you do in the time you have left? It’s clear he wishes to be with Julia, but fear and desperation overlay their encounter. He knows, better than she, what may happen to them the following day but he doesn’t want to give voice to his fears.
2) The hearing scene is a very complex one where everything Gabriel and Julia had built till that moment, their love, their trust and their promises, seem to crumble down. It’s a superb scene that elicited very strong feelings in me, and everytime I read it I relive all the tension I felt the first time. While writing it did you have all the details of the scene already planned in your mind?
Thanks very much. I’m glad you liked the scene. When I began writing it there were key elements I wanted to include. I’d researched the academic standards policies at the University of Toronto and spent time going through their judicial procedures and materials pertaining to old cases, etc. But as always, the voices of the characters emerge and they tend to say what they think …
3) Chapter 25 has a quote that really stuck with me and stopped me dead in my tracks: ”In an instant, the fire in her veins turned to ice”
I remember coming across that line and it literally taking my breath away. That one line encompassed everything that Julia was feeling and I felt it right alongside her. Do you find it difficult to write scenes where your two main characters are warring with each other in such an intense way?
Thank you. It’s usually easier to write conflict than to write a love scene, at least for me. But my sympathy for the characters makes it challenging, because I don’t like watching them suffer.
Thank you SR! It’s so awesome to get your insights as the author and creator
Now peeps we ask you to share your thoughts, your feelings, and your insights on these chapters…
Tamie and Elena