Book Club Questions: The Long View by Elizabeth Jane Howard

16 March 2016

Welcome to the all-new Picador Book Club. Each month we'll be suggesting a new or classic paperback that is perfect for book club discussion.

This month’s recommended novel for book clubs is Elizabeth Jane Howard's timeless classic, The Long View. The Picador Classic edition includes an illuminating introduction from Hilary Mantel, which you can read on the Waterstones blog. If you’d like to join the discussion about this month’s choice online, please use #PicadorBookClub.

'There is no author I have recommended more often'
Hilary Mantel

In 1950s London, Antonia Fleming faces the prospect of a life lived alone. Her children are now adults; her husband Conrad, a domineering and emotionally complex man, is a stranger. As Antonia looks towards her future, the novel steadily moves backwards in time, tracing Antonia's relationship with Conrad to its beginning in the 1920s, through years of mistake and motherhood, dreams and war. 

Observant and heartbreaking, The Long View is a gut-wrenching account of the birth and death of a relationship. Elizabeth Jane Howard’s fans include Joanna Lumley, Julian Barnes, Charlotte Mendelson, Rosamunde Pilcher and many more.

Start reading The Long View.

READING GROUP QUESTIONS  
The Long View by Elizabeth Jane Howard

Does your opinion of Conrad change throughout the course of the novel?  If so, can you pick out a particular moment that changed the way you saw him?

Do you think Antonia is a good mother and wife? Why or why not?

How does your opinion of Antonia’s mothering change once you meet Araminta?

Do you relate to June Stoker? Why or why not?

Looks play a big part in the novel, and at one point Antonia is told that “people are more beautiful if they are admired, more lovable if they are loved” – an observation with which she instantly agrees. What do you think the author is saying about value here? And about appearances?

Men in the novel are described at one point as having “discussed the fundamentals as superficially as the women in the drawing-room discussed the superficialities fundamentally.” What do you think Howard is saying about how society at the time saw the sexes? Do you think this has changed?

The novel is also filled with domineering men – for example, Conrad thinks at one point that “before he had spoken to her, before he had even known her name, he had wanted to be responsible for her peace and pleasure.” What do you make of the relationship between men and women in the novel?

Conrad thinks at one point: “With the heart you have no choice about chastity; it is not a question of morality: it just won’t split.” Do you think Conrad is right? Do you sympathise with him and his relationship with Imogen?

How much power do you think Antonia had in her relationship with Conrad? Would you say she was at all responsible for where the two ended up?

Do you think Howard’s portrait of marriage is ultimately negative? Hopeful? Neutral?

Take a look at our previous Picador Book Club choices here

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