As part of Bas Bleu’s 2016 Book a Month program, each month we’re offering discussion questions, author interviews, or other bonus material about our Bluestocking BAM selection to enrich your reading experience—for book clubs as well as thoughtful individuals. (We’ll do our best to avoid plot spoilers, but you should proceed with caution!)
Bas Bleu’s July Book a Month selection, Cassandra at the Wedding, is a profoundly insightful and somewhat disturbing coming-of-age narrative couched in a frantic comedy of manners. Editor AG writes,
I’m a sucker for biting wit, and Dorothy Baker’s writing style drew me in from the first page. The possibility-rich premise—a restless and adrift young graduate student arrives at her family’s California ranch determined to sabotage her identical twin sister’s wedding—gave way to wholly unexpected plot twists, leaving me suddenly shocked by some of the developments. Though originally published in 1962 and imbued with a period-specific vibe, this complex novel felt fresh and immediate to me. I first read it about a year ago, and still find myself thinking about the characters, especially the inimitable Cassandra.
1. The eponymous Cassandra is many things: intelligent, funny, miserable, manic, reckless, delusional, deliriously self-absorbed…What else would you add to the list of descriptors? Despite her flaws, did you find her sympathetic? Do you think she was meant to be? When did you first suspect that something might be wrong with her?
2. Familial relationships are central to this story, especially the complex, intimate bond between Cassandra and her identical twin, Judith. How do you think having a twin plays into Cassandra’s self-perception? Do you think the relationship between the sisters—so similar, and yet so different in many ways—is typical of twins (or sisters in general)?
3. Why does Cassandra see Judith’s marriage as a betrayal? Does Cassandra’s intense connection with Judith somehow make her feel more isolated?
4. Were you surprised when the narration switched to Judith’s voice? Did seeing things from Judith’s point of view change how you felt about any of the characters or events of the novel? How does the story’s three-part structure—Cassandra, then Judith, then Cassandra again—enhance the reader’s understanding of both sisters
5. The twins’ late mother is a looming presence throughout the events of the novel. Do you think she would know how to help Cassandra, or might she make things worse? Is she responsible for some of Cassandra’s issues? What about her father and grandmother…are in a position to help Cassandra?
6. Do you think Cassandra will be ok? Did you find the ending to be hopeful or ominous?