A Brightness Long Ago
Guy Gavriel Kay Questions for Discussion
1. Kay sets this novel in Batiara, not Italy. He has dealt with slightly changed settings in this way many times, using a “near Europe” in history, not the actual places and people, even though he cites his inspirations in the acknowledgments. Why do you think Kay approaches historical places and figures in this way?
2. There are only small elements of the supernatural in this book, primarily passages involving the voices of the recently dead. Do you think this novel is best seen as fantasy? Historical fiction? How much does a label or category matter in your thinking about a book?
3. Is art meant to reveal truths or to send messages? Is this true for all works of art?
4. Do you believe that Guidanio betrayed Morani by not defending him from the mob? What should he have done, if so?
5. Women in Batiara don’t have a lot of options as far as what they can be or do. Jelena and Adria have both chosen to lead lives different from the norm. How similar is this to women of today who try to break the barrier of women’s expected roles?
6. Is there a character in the story you identify with most? If so, who and why?
7. Guidanio is offered a prestigious position in Monticola’s court as a tutor for his sons. If you had been in his shoes, would you have accepted the offer?
8. Before the horse race, Adria thinks, Men—or women—cannot control the world
. Do you consider this true?
9. We eventually learn how the feud between the Acorsi and Remigio families began. Did finding out the truth about the feud change your perspective on or opinions about Folco d’Acorsi and Teobaldo Monticola? If so, how did your views change? Do you think one is a good person and the other bad? Do you think the author is making a point about this and how we make our judgments?
10. What are your thoughts on this quote? “Even so . . . we do turn the page, and can be lost again. And in that deep engagement we may find ourselves, or be changed, because the stories we are told become so much of what we are, how we understand our own days.” Do the books you love become a part of who you are?
11. Guidanio’s journey has led him to meet many important leaders and figures. Do you believe that his experiences with men such as Monticola, Folco, and the duke of Seressa were by chance, or have Guidanio’s own choices led him to these moments? Could it be a mixture of the two? Does this apply to everyone’s life?
12. When the golden city of Sarantium falls, Monticola and d’Acorsi put aside their feud and an impending battle to grieve and pray for forgiveness. If they had put aside their differences and hatred earlier, would they have been able to save Sarantium from falling? How powerful are they, really?
13. How do you feel about how each character’s story ended?
14. Guidanio narrates, “We like to believe, or pretend, we know what we are doing in our lives. It can be a lie. Winds blow, waves carry us, rain drenches a man caught in the open at night, lightning shatters the sky and sometimes his heart, thunder crashes into him bringing the awareness he will die.” Do you think we are choosing our paths in life?