Wealth and Privilege
1) The theme of “money can’t buy happiness” is played out in several different ways thoughout this book. Name three.
2) What is the overall vision of Family in this book?
3) Lady and the Tiger, Gone With the Wind, Casablanca, Finnegan’s Wake, and now Wealth and Privilege: open-ended stories are infuriating. But do they make the stories and characters more memorable?
4) Regina is seen by some readers as a shallow beauty queen, and by others as an ideal, modern woman. Which do you think she is?
5) Regina Waring is based upon the character of Rhett Butler from Gone With the Wind. In what ways are these two characters similar? How are they different?
6) The book is full of minor characters who offer Thomas love and support. Which is your favorite?
7) The author uses clothing and current events to denote the passage of time. What other devices does she use?
8) Is Thomas a gentleman of integrity, because he cannot have marital relations with his wife when he doesn’t love her, or is he a jerk because he will not make an effort to try and make the best of things in his marriage? What would you do if you were in his position?
9) Thomas struggles to come out from under the shadow of the memory of his dead older brother. Would his life have been very different if his brother hadn’t died?
10) Why does Thomas tell Meredith, when he bought the bigger house on Highland Avenue, that it was a birthday present for her? We know he really bought it because he wanted a bigger house and more space between him and his wife.
Brains and Beauty
1) The Phoenixes in her bedroom, the powerful Greek women on her front door: is Regina’s house, Elysium, her biggest outlet for creative self-expression? Where else does she expend her creative energies?
2) Charles is a very different person when seen through Regina’s eyes, vs. Thomas’s. Do any other characters undergo a big transformation with a different point of view?
3) Regina is a very poor communicator. When anything bothers her, she bites her tongue and never says what she really thinks. Does this strategy work for her? Would she have been better off if she was more aggressive with telling people her thoughts and feelings? Would it have improved her marriage or other relationships?
4) The author uses clothing, Gilbert and Sullivan operettas, and letters to show the passage of time. What other hints does she leave?
5) What is the overall vision of family in this book?
6) In Wealth and Privilege, Thomas has a rosy vision of Regina. In how many different ways are things not the way they appear?
7) Mrs. Astor puts up with her husband rather than seek a divorce. Regina is clearly unhappy in her marriage, but she also does not consider divorcing. Why not?
8) How much influence does Paula’s death have over Regina’s disinterest in having children?
9) In Wealth and Privilege, the biggest impact of the Civil War on Thomas was his brother’s death. Regina loses no family members through death; how is she affected by the Civil War?