This reading group guide for Price of Inheritance includes discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and suggestions for further reading. 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.
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Topics & Questions for Discussion
1. Discuss the ways Carolyn is shaped by her family. How does she follow in her parents’ footsteps, and how does she react against their choices?
2. Consider the novel’s epigraph. Did you notice it before you began reading, and if so, did you find it shaped your understanding of the novel? If not, how does it affect the way you consider the book retrospectively? Who in the novel do you think this quote could most closely apply to? And do you agree with Wilde?
3. Tanabe often uses clothing to give us insight into the personalities of her characters. Pick a few individuals from the novel and examine what you infer about them based on the descriptions of what they wear.
4. Ostensibly, Tyler and Carolyn are from completely different walks of life. In what ways are they actually quite similar? Beyond their apparent physical attraction, why do you think they are drawn to each other?
5. When she first meets Hannah, why does Carolyn give her Tyler’s phone number instead of her own? What is she trying to gain from that action?
6. Consider how the themes of ownership and theft are explored within the novel. When it comes to stealing, who is the most reprehensible character?
7. Nina tries to build a relationship with Carolyn after she plays a major role in her undoing. Do you think Carolyn was too unforgiving toward Nina? Do you think either Nina or Carolyn acted selfishly?
8. 8. How are wealth and the wealthy depicted in the book? Why do you think Tanabe chose to have Carolyn grow up adjacent to such affluence, and have her family be “formerly” affluent?
9. Discuss the ways the military and Newport’s old money society are juxtaposed within the novel.
10. Do you think Greg acted honorably when he voiced his suspicions about Tyler or were his actions self-serving? Do you think he cared about the raid on the museum or was he simply interested in Carolyn?
11. Why do you believe Carolyn cares about “old things” in the way that she does? What is it about antiques that captures her imagination? Do you share this fascination to any degree? Why or why not?
12. Though Hannah’s relationship with Tyler ended badly, she still chose to help him do something she suspected was illegal. What other legal and moral boundaries do Hannah, Tyler, and Carolyn cross when they follow their hearts?
13. After years of being “on again and off again,” Alex seems to finally want to commit to Carolyn once she has left New York. “It was always when you stopped caring,” she remarks. Have you had this experience before? Did you agree with Carolyn’s choice to walk away from Alex?
14. “I was going to be that
girl, and no one would remember who grew up on the edge of the ocean, and who grew up just behind it.” How does Carolyn’s sense of herself evolve over the course of the narrative? How has she changed by the novel’s end?
15. Which of the characters did you feel ultimately knew Carolyn best? Enhance Your Book Club
1. If you haven’t already, read Tanabe’s first novel, The List
, and discuss it as a group. Compare and contrast the protagonists of each book. In particular, you might consider how these two books depict power and influence—for example, who holds power in each book, and how is it gained or lost?
2. Many of Christie’s auctions are streamed live on their website, at https://www.christies.com/livebidding. Consider watching one as a group.
3. Imagine you are casting the film version of The Price of Inheritance
. Who would play Carolyn and Tyler? The Dalby sisters? Alex and Hannah?
4. The raid on the National Museum of Iraq took place in 2003 and the FBI is still searching for thousands of stolen artifacts and works of art. Take a look at the FBI’s Top Ten Art Crimes list (http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/investigate/vc_majorthefts/arttheft) to learn more about “stealing history.”
5. The historical figures Maimonides, Saladin, and King Richard I are at the heart of the mystery of the book. Read more about these three famous men and how their lives were connected during the Crusades.
6. Tanabe has her characters visit many Newport landmarks built during the Gilded Age, such as the Breakers and the Bellevue Avenue Historic District. Read more about the families who built them, including the Vanderbilts and Astors.
7. Tanabe modeled the Dalby mansion, “Morning Star,” after a real house on Bellevue Avenue, known as “Miramar.” Read more about the private home and the Widener family, who commissioned it as a summer house (in fact, two of the Wideners never saw the mansion, as they lost their lives on the Titanic
8. Several art theft stories inspired the author, including the films The Thomas Crown Affair
and The Red Violin
. Consider watching one of these films as a group.
9. Consider taking a trip to a museum to look at ceramics from the Middle East, or browse a collection online. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Freer and Sackler Galleries at the Smithsonian, Sackler Museum at Harvard University, Detroit Institute of Arts, and Los Angeles County Museum of Art all have noted collections.
10. Many of the characters in the book are passionate about collecting or working with American furniture. If money were no object, what types of art or artifacts would you collect?
11. Finding a famous work of art at Goodwill has happened before. Read about the Salvador Dalí sketch discovered at a Goodwill in Washington State or the Giovanni Battista Torriglia painting that was discovered at a Virginia Goodwill. Suggestions for Further Reading
For a detailed account of the raid of the National Museum of Iraq by a man who was on the ground and helped recover stolen objects, take a look at Thieves of Baghdad: One Marine’s Passion for Ancient Civilizations and the Journey to Recover the World’s Greatest Stolen Treasures
by Colonel Matthew Bogdanos. Seven Days in the Art World
by Sarah Thornton gives an expert and amusing look at the contemporary art world, including Christie’s auctions.
Thomas Asbridge’s The Crusades: The Authoritative History of the War for the Holy Land
is an accessible read that delves into the fight for the Holy Land between 1095 and 1291, with a strong focus on King Richard I and Saladin.