The offical Reading Group Guide for The Girl from the Paradise Ballroom
Questions and Topics for Discussion
1. Antonio and Olivia, as a singer and a dancer, are both able to captivate and hold the attention of an entire room but neither possesses the same confidence and authority in their daily lives. How is this contradiction reflected in their relationship?
2. Discuss their first brief but electric meeting and its repercussions throughout the novel.
3. Antonio and Olivia are both outsiders to the glamorous world of high society London; do you think this is what brings them together?
4. Did you respect Antonio for his sense of duty to his family, or did you feel that he put undeserving individuals before himself and his dreams?
5. The women in the novel, especially Olivia and Filomena, have to find ways of dealing with the social or family restrictions that limit their independence. How far do you think restrictions like these still apply to women in the 21st century?
6. Fascism is a theme and source of conflict throughout the book on both a global and familial scale. Discuss how, despite Antonio’s resistance, his family’s connection to the fascist cause ultimately results in his downfall.
7. The novel looks at what life was life for Italian immigrants in Britain and the prejudices they encountered, particularly in wartime. How do you think their experiences compare with those of immigrant communities in America?
8. When the Arandora Star is torpedoed, did you initially believe that Antonio was dead, or did you hold on to hope that he survived?
9. When did you suspect that Olivia’s daughter was Antonio’s?
10. Discuss the role that lineage and heritage plays throughout the generations in the novel.
11. Olivia’s death is sudden and the narrative provides little description. Did you think this scene was reality or a dream? Were you shocked to learn that she was really dead?
12. Discuss the relationship between Filomena, Nina, and Bernard in their unconventional family structure.
13. How did your opinion of Bernard change throughout the book, as a philanthropist, husband, and widowed father?
14. Filomena and Stan have a very different kind of relationship than Olivia and Antonio. What does the resolution of the novel say about passionate versus unhurried love?
15. Why do you think this time period in London is so enthralling and captivating to Americans?
16. If you were to write the epilogue, what would you envision happening to all of the characters?