A Novel


Set amid the elegant châteaux of Belle époque France and the closely guarded world of nineteenth-century Persian women, Courtesan unfolds with the breathtaking cinematic sweep and stunning visual grandeur of an epic film. At its heart are three unforgettable women: Madame Gabrielle, the courtesan whose fateful liaison with the shah of Persia reverberates in the lives of her daughter, Françoise, and her rebellious and brave granddaughter, Simone, whose journey plunges her into the cutthroat diamond trade, where the secrets of an ancient culture may hold the truth she desperately seeks.
  • Touchstone | 
  • 304 pages | 
  • ISBN 9780743246781 | 
  • July 2005
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Reading Group Guide

Reading Group Guide
1. Describe the three women of Château Gabrielle, both individually and in the context of their mother-daughter relationships. What was your initial perception of Mme Gabrielle, Françoise, and Simone? Did your opinion change as the story progressed?
2. Given the limited options available to women in the late nineteenth century, do you understand the decision Mme Gabrielle -- and later Françoise -- made to become a courtesan? Does their chosen profession make them superior to men, subservient to them, or of equal standing? What is their reputation, and how are they viewed by society?
3. Mme Gabrielle records the story of her life in a journal, with the hope that by revealing her past to Simone it will change her granddaughter's mind about continuing the family's legacy as courtesans. Do you believe Simone will change her mind after reading the journal? Why does Françoise feel betrayed when she discovers her mother's memoirs are addressed to Simone and not to her?
4. What does Mme Gabrielle gain from the process of revisiting her past? If she could live her life over again, do you think she would make the same choices? Mme Gabrielle describes herself as "Jew and Gentile, and proud of her accomplishments" (21). Has delving into her past allowed her to reconnect with her Jewish heritage?
5. How would you describe Simone before she meets Cyrus? How about when she returns to Château Gabrielle after his dea see more

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About the Author

Dora Levy Mossanen
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Dora Levy Mossanen

Dora Levy Mossanen was born in Israel and moved to Iran when she was nine. At the onset of the Islamic revolution, she and her family fled to the United States. The recipient of the San Diego State University Editor's Choice award and the author of Harem, a widely acclaimed novel translated into numerous languages, Dora Levy Mossanen lives in Beverly Hills, California. She can be reached at