On Gin Lane
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Brooke Lea Foster This reading group guide for On Gin Lane includes an introduction, 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.Introduction After her fiancé whisks her off to the glistening shores of Southampton in June of 1957, one young socialite begins to realize that her glamorous summer is giving her everything—except what she really wants—in this new novel from the author of Summer Darlings.
Everleigh “Lee” Farrows thinks she finally has life all figured out: a handsome fiancé named Roland, a trust in her name, and a house in Bronxville waiting for her to fill it with three adorable children. That is, until Roland brings her out to the Hamptons for a summer that will change everything.
Most women could only dream of the engagement present Roland unexpectedly bestows on Lee—a beachside hotel on the prized Gin Lane—but Lee's delight is clouded by unpleasant memories of another hotel, the Plaza, where she grew up in the shadow of her mother's mental illness. Shaking off flashbacks, Lee resolves to dive into an unforgettable summer with poolside Bellinis, daily tennis matches, luncheons with her Manhattan circle, and her beloved camera in tow. But when tragedy strikes on the hotel's opening weekend, the cracks in Lee's picture-perfect future slowly begin to reveal themselves, and Lee must look deep within herself to determine if the life she's always wanted will ever truly be enough.
From the regal inns to the farmland, the well-heeled New Yorkers to the Bohemian artists, the East End of Long Island is a hodge-podge of the changing American landscape in the late 1950s—and the perfect place for Lee to discover who she really is.Topics and Questions for Discussion
1. Revisit the first chapter now that you know the full story. What was your first impression of Everleigh? Of Roland? What did you originally predict for the hotel?
2. The author takes her time detailing the hotel, the ocean, and the Hamptons where Everleigh spent her summer. What images struck you the most? How does the historical portrayal differ from what you know or have heard about the Hamptons?
3. How would you characterize the dramatic shift between chapters 3 and 4? Heartbreaking? Exciting? Devastating?
4. Although Roland started off as a loving and accepting fiancé, he slowly began to change. How did you react to the portrayal of the “traditional” husband role his character represented? When did your perception of his character start to shift?
5. Everleigh's passion for photography is expressed from the start. How does Everleigh's camera reflect her inner desire for freedom?
6. Compare and contrast Whitney and Everleigh. In what ways are they similar? Different? What do you think brings them together and what draws them apart? Have you ever struggled with a friend similarly?
7. When Starling and Everleigh first meet at the art colony, are the two women impacted equally? In what ways? Do you think this moment marks a major character shift for Everleigh? Describe and discuss other moments that are pivotal in her development that summer.
8. The topic of mental illness is noted in the story through Everleigh's mother. Did you wish there was more of her mother's struggle in the story? How did the author express the taboo of mental health within society at the time?
9. The power derived from money is emphasized in key moments. Pinpoint a few and discuss. How does the time period and its societal norms influence them?
10. Although Everleigh grew up wealthy and privileged, she mentions twice in the book that money “is not everything” due to her troubled childhood. Discuss the implications of her statement and her relationship between money and happiness.
11. Discuss the evolution and changes that the small beach cottage undergoes throughout Everleigh and Roland's stay. What is the significance in Everleigh's cooking?
12. A recurring idea in On Gin Lane
is one woman's struggle to gain control of her life. Do you think that women struggle similarly today? Be specific and use examples from your own life.
13. In what ways is the character of Curtis different from all the other men in Everleigh's life?
14. How does Starling's relationship with her daughter and Everleigh's relationship with her mother parallel?
15. In the closing chapter, Everleigh runs into Roland at the grocery store. They opt for a cordial hello and goodbye. Why do you think it is impactful that they did not fully interact? How did you feel about the overall ending of Everleigh's story?Enhance Your Book Club
1. In On Gin Lane
, Everleigh meets or mentions famous historical characters such as Marilyn Monroe, Arthur Miller, Ella Fitzgerald, and Nat King Cole. Take a little time in your book club to research the lives of some of these cultural icons. How do their characters and their real history influence and support the backdrop for the book?
2. Everleigh uses her camera as a tool to express, protect, and often detach herself from her life. Ask everyone in your book club to showcase any images they have taken in the past that help tell their individual story. Ask why they chose their particular photo.
3. On Gin Lane
is a work of historical fiction and an allegory for feminism, highlighted through Everleigh's character journey and development. What other novels or books does Everleigh's story remind you of? Which feminist authors or characters come to mind? In your book club, discuss the importance of feminist literature.