Questions and Topics for Discussion
1. The story of The Madness of Love is told from the point of view of six characters. With which character do you identify the most and why? Is Boase a sympathetic or unsympathetic character? How do you respond to the self-indulgence of Leo Spring?
2. The Madness of Love was inspired by Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. In what ways do you think turning a play, written to be performed on the stage, into a novel has influenced the narrative? If you are familiar with Twelfth Night, how did you respond to the various ways in which it has been used in The Madness of Love? Do you need to be familiar with Twelfth Night to enjoy and understand this novel?
3. The Madness of Love is set in an imaginary, almost timeless place called Illerwick. How important is the sense of place in the novel and how does it affect the atmosphere and what happens?
4. The Madness of Love makes deliberate, though sometimes subtle, use of echoes, parallels, and repetitions, rather like Twelfth Night. Did you feel this was an effective device?
5. Among the themes of The Madness of Love are love, obsession, and deceit. Which characters draw out each of these themes the most and how does the author successfully weave the themes together? Name other themes of the book.
6. How plausible is it that Valentina would give up everything to move to Illerwick posing as a gardener? What exactly is it about her brother’s broken promise that compels her to do this? Or does it have more to do with her ambitions as a writer, or her attraction to Leo? What else might justify her actions?
7. By the end of the novel, the true desires of each of the characters have been revealed and either satisfied or denied. Is what happens to Boase and to each couple just?
8. How might both Valentina’s and Leo’s artistic aspirations clash and how might these aspirations draw them closer together?
9. If you could counsel one character and change his/her actions, who would it be, what would you tell him/her, and how would that change the course of the plot?