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About The Book

Reality TV—Jane Austen Style

Meet the Harcourts of Chevy Chase, Maryland. A respectable middle-class, middle-age, mixed-race couple, Harold and Forsythia have four eminently marriageable daughters—or so their mother believes. Forsythia named her girls after Windsor royals in the hopes that one day each would find her true prince. But princes are far from the mind of their second-born daughter, Elizabeth (AKA Bliss), who, in the aftermath of a messy divorce, has moved back home and thrown herself into earning her PhD. All that changes when a Bachelorette-style reality television show called The Virgin takes Bliss’s younger sister Diana as its star. Though she fights it at first, Bliss can’t help but be drawn into the romantic drama that ensues, forcing her to reconsider everything she thought she knew about love, her family, and herself. Fresh and engaging, Imperfect Bliss is a wickedly funny take on the ways that courtship and love have changed—even as they’ve stayed the same.

Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for Imperfect Bliss includes discussion questions and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.

Questions and Topics for Discussion

1. Take a closer look at the epigraphs for Imperfect Bliss. How does each relate to the novel? Do you think they are representing the point of view of a specific character? 

2. On the surface, Harold and Forsythia are an unlikely couple. What do you think draws them together? Are there other unlikely couples in Imperfect Bliss that seem to work?

3. Do you think Imperfect Bliss takes a cynical or an optimistic take on love? What about marriage? Use examples from the novel during your discussion. 

4. Bliss feels that history holds the keys to the present and the future. To what extent is this belief illustrated in the book? Do you agree with Bliss?

5. Discuss the ways that the novel addresses race. Would you say it is central to the plot? What about to the identities of the Harcourt daughters? 

6. How do Bliss’s opinions of her mother and father evolve as the novel progresses? 

7. On p. 246, Victoria compares being gay to being black. Do you agree with this comparison? Why doesn’t this seem to resonate with Forsythia?

8. Early in the novel, Bliss thinks, “Fairy tales were like candy: fine if you didn’t make a steady diet of them” (p. 3). Despite this statement, do you think Bliss learns anything from fairy tales over the course of the novel?

9. “You think this is bad, you should watch The Bachelor. Twenty-five babes and one guy in a hot tub.” Do you think that The Virgin is better for women than a show like The Bachelor or the The Bachelorette? Or is it just the same in principle? 

10. What do you think the “imperfect bliss” of the title is referring to – and what is the novel saying about bliss, more generally? Does perfect bliss exist? 

11. Consider Bliss’s love interests throughout the novel—Manuel, Wyatt, Jordan, and Dario. What do they have in common? What lessons does Bliss take away from each of them? 

12. How is Fales-Hill using satire within the novel, and what point do you think she is making about reality television? Did reading this novel affect the way you think about (or view) any specific shows? 

Enhance Your Reading Group

1. Consider the significance of the Chevalier de Saint-Georges in the novel. What does he represent to Bliss? As a group, do some research into the historical figure – you might even listen to some of his music. 

2. If you haven’t already, read Susan Fales-Hill’s previous novel, One Flight Up as a group, and compare and contrast the portrayal of marriage in each book. 

3. Adriana Trigiani called Imperfect Bliss a “piquant comedy of manners,” and author Susan Fales-Hill acknowledged that she wrote the novel with Jane Austen in mind—in particular, Pride and Prejudice. Can you identify the parallels between the Harcourts and the Bennetts? 

4. Imagine that you are casting the film version of Imperfect Bliss. Who would you pick to play each of the four sisters? What about Harold and Forsythia? Dario and Wyatt?

About The Author

Photograph by Julie Skarratt

Susan Fales-Hill is an award-winning television writer and producer (The Cosby Show, Suddenly Susan, and A Different World) and the author of One Flight Up and the acclaimed memoir Always Wear Joy. She is a contributing editor at Essence, and her writing has also appeared in Vogue, Town & Country, and Good Housekeeping. Susan lives in New York City with her husband and daughter.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Atria Books (July 3, 2012)
  • Length: 304 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781451623840

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Raves and Reviews

"Fales-Hill channels Jane Austen in a bawdy sendup of today’s landed gentry...but the hilarious hijinks of the Harcourts hide more poignant truths about these strong-willed women. She whips an old-fashioned comedy of manners into a stylish, sharp-edged satire."

– Publishers Weekly

"Chick lit with an intellectual streak."

– Library Journal

“Convincingly updates Pride and Prejudice for the twenty-first century …the novel’s strength is Bliss, a complicated, thoughtful woman—a feminist raising a princess-obsessed daughter, and a very funny narrator. Issues of racial and economic prejudice add depth to the Austenesque social commentary.”

– Booklist

"Imperfect Bliss is the perfect summer read. Susan Fales-Hill, a magnificent storyteller, has written a poignant and piquant comedy of manners that will make Jane Austen fans swoon. Delicious!"

– Adrianna Trigiani, bestselling author of The Shoemaker's Wife

Imperfect Bliss is a hoot! Featuring a heroine who becomes entangled in the nutty world of reality TV, it's a fast, fun read.”

– Sarah Pekkanen, author of These Girls

"If Candace Bushnell and Zadie Smith had a literary love child, the result would be Imperfect Bliss."

– Keli Goff, author of The GQ Candidate

"Imperfect Bliss's romantic heroine ultimately finds her epiphany in a journey through family discord, reality TV productions, and a candlelight dinner for two...this is reading as alluring as the best French perfume."

– André Leon Talley, Editor at Large,Vogue

“A chick lit masterpiece that leaves Jackie Collins in the dust.”

– New York Post

“Frank and funny…A wise and wicked peek into the overstuffed closets and medicine cabinets of New York’s contemporary gilded set.”

– Essence

“A sassy summer beach read.”

– Vogue

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