1. The first two chapters introduce J. J. and Ginger in settings
where they seem fulfilled and at peace. What does J. J.'s cabin
have in common with the farmhouse Ginger rents in Italy? Is there
any similarity between Ginger's relationship with Marco and J. J.'s
experience with Julianne, the teacher from Osceola? How does
Julianne measure up to Georgia Larkin?
2. Discuss the narrator's voice in "Swan." What traits do you
recognize from Frances Mayes's non fiction and poetry? How did her
accomplished writer's eye serve her in creating a novel?
3. Compare her depiction of small-town Georgia to that of
Tuscany. Are there any similarities between the Mason's family
house and Bramasole?
4. Frances told her editor that "Swan" is "a book of memory, how
it cuts and comes again, and of a powerful landscape, which is
always at work shaping the people who live on its surface." What
are some of the ways in which memory and landscape define the
inhabitants of Swan? Were Swan's "old days" good ones?
5. Holt's relationship with Lucy is considered just as taboo as
Catherine's extramarital affair. As time passes, how is this legacy
of racism handled in the town of Swan? In what ways do Tessie and
Scott reflect their generations?
6. Frances Mayes is renowned for her description of Tuscany's
cuisine. What are some of the most tempting Southern dishes
presented in the novel?
7. From Big Jim to Ginger, the novel portrays a variety of
traditional and highly non-traditional men and women. Discuss how
"Swan"'s characters compare to the men and women in your life. Do
you think that Southern gender roles are different from those found
elsewhere in America?
8. Occurring early in the novel, Ginger's passionate scene with
Marco is immediately followed by gruesome events in Magnolia
Cemetery. How are attitudes toward sex and death entwined in the
town of Swan?
9. Why do Ginger and J. J. have such opposing reactions to their
father? How did your impression of Wills change when you learned of
his connection to Dachau?
10. Do you suppose that Catherine would have rebuffed Austin's
marriage proposal if she had been born twenty years later? Is her
situation reflected in Ginger's first marriage? How does
Catherine's affair compare with her children's romances?
11. Who were your primary suspects in Catherine's murder? How
would you have reacted in Sonny's place?
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