A beautiful read! I’ve just finished this book….a Christmas gift from my wonderful daughter! There are so many notions explored here that come up again and again for me…given my military upbringing…my preoccupation with issues of memory, writing, art and landscape…given my forever-concerns around the changing environment! I’ve collected just a few questions to be considered as one tackles this book. Urquhart is not a writer for everyone…but I find her themes of utmost concern to me. Enjoy!
1. "Renaissance poets and playwrights were obsessed with what they called Mutability, or change. So is Jane Urquhart, who broods in most of her novels over a lost, pristine landscape and the smaller, more human settlements of the nineteeth century. Change is the central theme in A Map of Glass, affecting everything from forests and shorelines to human memory. List some of the irrevocable changes detailed in the book. What are some of the natural symbols Urquhart uses to underscore this theme? What is the relationship in the book between human arrogance and change? What are some of the ways characters try to arrest change, or record what is passing? Is change ever seen as good in the novel?"
2."Several characters in A Map of Glass are visual artists, whether they know it or not — Annabelle, Bran, Jerome, Mira, and Joseph Woodman. When Sylvia tells Jerome about the tactile maps she makes for her blind friend Julia, he tells her that she, too, is making art. Some art fixes something real or imagined into permanence or semi-permanence; other art, like Mira’s performance work, is transitory. Discuss the different kinds of art and artists in the book. How do they echo or illuminate some of the novel’s concerns."
3."After he finishes reading Andrew’s journals, Jerome remarks that “maybe landscape — place — makes people more knowable. Or it did, in the past” [p. 336]. How do various characters in the novel exemplify this idea? In A Map of Glass, landscape or a strong sense of place can be an imprisoning force; with other characters, it is a source of safety or freedom. Discuss the main characters’ reaction to their present or remembered landscape."
Ask yourself about the landscape you most ‘connect’ with…what is the history you have with that place? How do you return to it again and again; if not physically, then in your head? Write your thoughts down and give them to someone you love.