What Is Left The Daughter by Howard Norman

What Is Left The Daughter

byHoward Norman

Paperback | May 3, 2011

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A two-time National Book Award finalist delivers a stirring tale of the passions - tender, obsessive, even murderous - that are unleashed by a wartime love triangle.

Seventeen-year-old Wyatt Hillyer is suddenly orphaned when his parents, within hours of each other, jump off two different bridges - the result of their separate involvements with the same compelling neighbor, a Halifax switchboard operator and aspiring actress. The suicides cause Wyatt to move to small-town Middle Economy to live with his uncle, aunt, and ravishing cousin Tilda.

Setting in motion the novel's chain of life-altering passions and the wartime perfidy at its core is the arrival of the German student Hans Mohring, carrying only a satchel. Actual historical incidents - including a German U-boat's sinking of the Nova Scotia-Newfoundland ferry Caribou - lend intense narrative power to Norman's uncannily layered story.

Wyatt's account of the astonishing events leading up to his fathering of a beloved daughter spills out twenty-one years later. What Is Left the Daughter is Howard Norman at his celebrated best.

About The Author

HOWARD NORMAN is a three-time winner of National Endowment for the Arts fellowships and a winner of the Lannan Award for Fiction. His novel The Northern Lights was nominated for a National Book Award, as was The Bird Artist. He is also the author of The Museum Guard, The Haunting of L and Devotion. His books have been translated into t...
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Details & Specs

Title:What Is Left The DaughterFormat:PaperbackDimensions:256 pages, 8 × 5.44 × 0.72 inPublished:May 3, 2011Publisher:Knopf CanadaLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0307400948

ISBN - 13:9780307400949

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Bookclub Guide

1. What is the meaning of the epigraph, taken from Erasmus? What, for Wyatt, would be the “unaccustomed Element”?2. Discuss the significance of the novel’s title, taken from a parable recounted in the opening chapter.3. How does history intervene and intensify courtship and marriage – not just between the main characters but, for instance, with war brides?4. Was the murder of the German philology student Hans Mohring a race-related crime or a crime of passion or something else altogether?5. How does the construction of love triangles play out in this story?6. Constance uses the word “provisional” (p. 79) to describe the way friendships work, and marriages too. What does she mean by this?7. Constance gives Wyatt a poem to read by Elizabeth Bishop, titled “Casabianca” (p. 80). What do you think is the meaning of the poem for Constance? For Wyatt? What does it mean to you?8. Why do you think Donald becomes so obsessed with the news of the German U-boats, perhaps more than anyone else in Middle Economy?9. After the terrible crime, Wyatt describes himself as “fully volunteering in the aftermath” (p. 124). Do you agree?10. Time and again, radios enter the narrative. Discuss how radios impact the thoughts and experiences of the people in Wyatt’s life. Why are radios so important in the book?11. What did you think of Wyatt’s emotional state throughout the novel? Did his behaviour at times surprise you? What did you think of his character as events progressed?12. Describing Lenore’s unhappy life, Cornelia Tell says, “In your life happiness is either cut to your length or isn’t” (p. 20). What does she mean by this? Is happiness cut to Wyatt’s length? What does this philosophy reveal about Cornelia herself?13. Wyatt describes Tilda as “too much beauty” (p. 29). Why do you think he uses this phrase? What is it about Tilda that makes him fall in love? Do you think the feeling is reciprocated?14. Discuss the meaning of forgiveness in the novel. Who is forgiven, by whom and why? What about when forgiveness does not take place? What is the consequence?15. Wyatt is the sole narrator of this novel. Do you trust his words in general? Is he being fully honest throughout?16. What do you think Marlais’s response to this letter will be? Will she forgive Wyatt? Should she? Did you feel like you had a sense of the character of Marlais in absentia?

Editorial Reviews

"Norman writes with spare elegance and dry humor, and the extraordinary emotional power of his slim new novel is earned with authentic grace. Grade: A" --Entertainment Weekly"What Is Left the Daughter starts off with a bang--or, rather, a splash.... Howard Norman is a gentle, deliberate writer, and his humor is smart and dry [in this] novel about the illogic of love and the violent chaos it leaves in its wake." --The New York Times"Norman's piquant insights into life's wildness, human eccentricity, and love's maddening persistence are matched by rhapsodic and profound descriptions of everything from perfectly baked scones to pelting rain and the devouring sea, while anguish is tempered with humor, thanks to rapid-fire banter and marvelously spiky characters." --Booklist