Fallen Beauty (Paperback)
Berkley, 9780451418906, 384pp.
Publication Date: March 4, 2014
Upstate New York, 1928. Laura Kelley and the man she loves sneak away from their judgmental town to attend a performance of the scandalous Ziegfeld Follies. But the dark consequences of their night of daring and delight reach far into the future.…
That same evening, Bohemian poet Edna St. Vincent Millay and her indulgent husband hold a wild party in their remote mountain estate, hoping to inspire her muse. Millay declares her wish for a new lover who will take her to unparalleled heights of passion and poetry, but for the first time, the man who responds will not bend completely to her will.…
Two years later, Laura, an unwed seamstress struggling to support her daughter, and Millay, a woman fighting the passage of time, work together secretly to create costumes for Millay’s next grand tour. As their complex, often uneasy friendship develops amid growing local condemnation, each woman is forced to confront what it means to be a fallen woman…and to decide for herself what price she is willing to pay to live a full life.
“Lovers of the Jazz Age, literary enthusiasts, and general historic fiction readers will find much to love about Call Me Zelda. Highly recommended.” –Historical Novel Society, Editors’ Choice
About the Author
Praise For Fallen Beauty…
“Robuck's winning mix of imaginative storytelling and historical research makes for a gripping tale. Fallen Beauty is a must-read for fans of the fascinating poet Edna St. Vincent Millay.”—J. Courtney Sullivan, New York Times bestselling author of Maine
“Erika Robuck brings the poet Edna St. Vincent Millay to life in all her beauty and insatiability. This is an electrifying read, one that crackles with passion on every page. The book reads like poetry.”—Alyson Richman, national bestselling author of The Lost Wife
“This finely tuned, lyrical novel is Robuck's strongest work to date, and destined to become an American classic.”—Simon Van Booy, award-winning author of The Illusion of Separateness
Praise for Call Me Zelda
“This gem of a novel spins a different, touching story.…You will love it, as I absolutely did.”—Tatiana de Rosnay, New York Times Bestselling Author of Sarah’s Key
“Richly imagined…an unsettling yet tender portrayal of two women inextricably bound by hope and tragedy.”—Beth Hoffman, New York Times Bestselling Author of Looking for You
“Haunting and beautifully atmospheric…brilliantly brings Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald to life in all their doomed beauty, with compelling and unforgettable results.”—Alex George, Author of A Good American
Praise for Hemingway’s Girl
“You’ll love this robust, tender story of love, grief, and survival on Key West in the 1930s…addictive.”—Jenna Blum, New York Times Bestselling Author of Those Who Save Us
“Readers will delight in the complex relationships and vivid setting.”—Publishers Weekly
“Evokes a setting of the greatest fascination...This is assured and richly enjoyable storytelling.”—Margaret Leroy, Author of The Soldier’s Wife
"Robuck's breathtaking alchemy is to put us inside the world of Hemingway and his wife Pauline, and add a bold young woman to the mix with a story uniquely her own. Dazzlingly written and impossibly moving, this novel is a supernova."—Caroline Leavitt, New York Times Bestselling Author of Pictures of You
Conversation Starters from ReadingGroupChoices.com
- What was your overall reaction to reading Fallen Beauty?
- How are both Edna St. Vincent Millay and Laura Kelley “fallen women”? How does each rebuild her life after her fall?
- Discuss the changing dynamics between Laura and Edna over the course of the novel. How do they hurt and help each other? By the end, how would you define their relationship?
- Discuss the many kinds of isolation in the novel. How much of it is self-imposed, and why do some characters choose isolation? How does community act to reinforce or counteract that isolation?
- Laura is keeping her lover’s identity secret. Discuss the secrets that other people in town are keeping. Do Edna and Eugen keep any secrets?
- Compare Laura’s relationship with her unidentified lover and Edna’s relationship with George Dillon.
- What role does the statue of the Virgin play in the novel? Why do you think Erika Robuck included it?
- Erika Robuck has said that Fallen Beauty is based on themes from Nathanial Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter. What do you think she means?
- Talk about the various mothers in the book, and what we know about the choices they made. What kind of mother might Edna have made? What direction might Laura’s life have taken if she wasn’t a mother? Based on what the novel reveals about Cora, how do you think she helped shape Edna’s life?
- Do you think, like Edna, that artists should seek to live fully in order to have profound experiences to inspire their art? What price might an artist pay in doing so? What price does Millay pay? What about Laura?
- Attitudes about out-of-wedlock births have changed dramatically since the 1930s when this novel takes place. Do you have stories to share, perhaps from your own family, about women whose lives were affected by a pregnancy outside of marriage? How different is your own attitude to those held in the thirties?
- At the end of the novel, Edna calls Laura a “cruel beauty.” What do you think she means? How is Edna herself a cruel beauty?
- What do you think you’ll remember about this novel long after you finish reading it?