Flowers of Darkness
From the internationally bestselling author of Sarah's Key comes Tatiana de Rosnay's Flowers of Darkness, a riveting and emotionally intense novel, set in a near future Paris, where a woman confronts past betrayal and present mystery
Author Clarissa Katsef is struggling to write her next book. She’s just snagged a brand new artist residency in an ultra-modern apartment, with a view of all of Paris, a dream for any novelist in search of tranquility. But since moving in, she has had the feeling of being watched. Is there reason to be paranoid? Or is her distraction and discomfort the result of her husband’s recent shocking betrayal? Or is that her beloved Paris lies altered outside her windows? A city that will never be quite the same, a city with a scar at its center?
Stuck inside, in the midst of a sweltering heat wave, Clarissa enlists her beloved granddaughter in her investigation of the mysterious, high tech building even as she finds herself drawn back into the orbit of her first husband who is still the one who knows her most intimately, who shares the past grief that she has never quite let go.
Staying true to her favorite themes—the imprint of the place, the weight of secrets—de Rosnay weaves an intrigue of thrilling suspense and emotional power.
Praise For Flowers of Darkness: A Novel…
"A woman wrestling with writer's block turns to a Parisian residency to get her creative juices flowing, with grim consequences, in Tatiana de Rosnay's Flowers of Darkness. Alone in her swanky, if temporary, apartment, Clarissa can't escape the feeling that she's under surveillance. She pulls her granddaughter in to help her, but soon comes face to face with the secrets of her own past, in this tense thriller." —Bustle
“A literary mystery with a dash of science fiction, this will reach out into many genres and bring in readers with its captivating hook.” —The Parksburg News and Sentinel
"All the alluring ingredients of de Rosnay's work come together in her new novel." —Elle (France)
“A fine novel, a thriller that sensitively explores paranoia, grief, and personal redemption. The writing is lush and visually evocative… she has such a compelling voice." —Booklist
"I love how Tatiana de Rosnay's novels are always both page-turners and explorations of important issues…The questions the story raises about creativity, loss, and the rich messiness of being fully human are crucial and compelling. The near-future in which Flowers of Darkness takes place is such a logical extension of our own environmentally-challenged and AI-enhanced present that as I read I kept wanting to check to make sure the Eiffel tower was still standing." —Jean Hegland, author of Windfalls and Into the Forest
"Lively, engaging and captivating." —Madame Figaro
"By exploring the effects of modern technology and the upheavals of contemporary life, de Rosnay continues to thrill us with this hypnotizing intrigue." —Tele 7 Jours
St. Martin's Press, 9781250272553, 256pp.
Publication Date: February 23, 2021
About the Author
Conversation Starters from ReadingGroupChoices.com
1. De Rosnay sets the scene in a dystopian Paris: What adjectives, imagery, and themes does she use? Describe how this is a very different Paris, nothing to do with the postcard image for tourists. Did you find these descriptions scary? Or realistic?
2. How does de Rosnay depict Clarissa’s new apartment in the state-of-the-art C.A.S.A. residence? How does her virtual assistant, Mrs. Dalloway, slowly encroach upon her privacy? Do you think Chablis, the cat, really sees or feels something?
3. This book takes us into the minds and homes of two writers: Virginia Woolf and Romain Gary. Discuss how both of them differently affect Clarissa and leave their imprints upon her. Discuss the themes and images used in Gary’s Parisian apartment, then in Woolf’s country home and garden. What did you learn?
4. Through her notebook, we see how Clarissa discovers her husband’s infidelity and that it’s not what she expected. Were you shocked by this outcome and why? What did you think of François’s letter to her? Describe why you think Clarissa’s plight is worse or better than a more typical situation.
5. Family is essential to Clarissa, especially her daughter, Jordan, her granddaughter, Andy, and her centenarian dad. Discuss how these family ties evolve and change during the story and how siblings can become estranged over inheritance issues. Who is your favorite character and why?
6. According to Virginia Woolf, the term “flowers of darkness” suggests our own paranoia and how we deal with it. Would you have trusted C.A.S.A. and Dr. Dewinter’s principles? How would you have reacted to what Clarissa undergoes in the residence? How do you view the future and its threats? Do you ever feel “invaded” by the encroachment of technology into our everyday lives? Discuss whether you think Clarissa is correct in her assumptions or whether she might be overreacting.
7. Clarissa is fluent in English and in French and writes in both languages simultaneously. After her discoveries concerning C.A.S.A., she is convinced that artificial intelligence is scavenging what she calls “hybrid brains,” such as hers. Do you think she has a point or is she being paranoid yet again?
8. Clarissa’s dreams play an important part in the story, as does hypnosis. Describe the themes and patterns of the images coming back to haunt Clarissa and how they coalesce with her present.
9. During her interview for C.A.S.A. residency, Clarissa states that she does not write books to give answers, but to make her readers think. How did you handle the open ending of this novel? What do you believe de Rosnay’s true intent was?
10. Toby, Clarissa’s ex-husband, is an essential part of her life. Why is this? Discuss the final scene with Toby and its repercussions. Has Clarissa really reached safe harbor? What do you think is in store for her?
11. What was your impression of Clarissa at the beginning of the book? What about at the end? Over the course of the novel, how does she change and what does she learn about herself? If this book became a movie, which actress would you cast as Clarissa?
12. If you have read The Rain Watcher, A Secret Kept, Sarah’s Key, The Other Story, or The House I Loved—also by de Rosnay—can you point to any common themes that are found in her books?