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From the Hardcover edition.
1. What does the first scene convey about Charlotte’s personality? How does her reaction to seeing Hays with another woman capture both her spirit and her insecurities? What does it reveal about Hays and his attitude toward Charlotte?
2. Even before her illness Charlotte is isolated from the Heath family. What factors play a role in their general disapproval of her? In what ways does Charlotte confirm their assumptions about her? Is her unacceptable behavior inadvertent, the result of naiveté and a lack of proper training, or does she intentionally provoke the family’s disapproval?
3. Would their marriage have taken a different course had Charlotte and Hays established a home of their own? Do the politics and social standards of the time, as well as Hays’s regard for his family’s wealth and position, make it impossible for him to conceive of a different, more egalitarian relationship? What part does Charlotte’s inability to have children play in the unraveling of their marriage?
4. Discuss Charlotte’s relationships with the other people in the Heath household. With whom does she feel most comfortable and why? How do her interactions with the men and the women in the family differ? What does this reflect not only about the dynamics of the well-to-do Heaths, but also about family life and the roles assumed by—or assigned to—men and women, masters and servants, during the period?
5. Is Charlotte’s flight an impulsive, irrational act? What light do her recollections of her life with Hays and her response to his admonitions shed on her mood and state of mind?
6. Charlotte says she married Hays “because saying no to him would have been like saying no to your own heart” [p. 41]. What qualities make him appealing not only to Charlotte but to the reader as well? What do the secrets he hides from the family (for example, his interest in poetry, p. 77) show about his character and beliefs? What originally attracted Hays to Charlotte?
7. On one level, the Beechmont is a refuge for Charlotte and the other guests. What else does it symbolize? How do the descriptions of Charlotte’s arrival [p. 46] and her reactions to Harry Alcorn, Lily Heath, and the handsome young man in her room [pp. 50–52] signal a change in Charlotte’s reality? Discuss the relationship between Charlotte’s sojourn at the hotel—including the people she meets—and the novel’s earlier references to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland [pp. 17–18]. What other fantasies, fairy tales, and literary works does the novel evoke, either implicitly or explicitly? How do these references deepen the meaning and impact of the story?
8. How would you characterize the tone and intention of Hays’s letter to Charlotte [pp. 92–93]? Why does Charlotte destroy it without a moment’s hesitation?
9. What does the hotel offer Aunt Lily and Berenice Singleton? What particular needs does it satisfy for each of them? Why, despite Lily’s good marriage and professional achievements and Berenice’s artistic talent, have they found it necessary to establish lives hidden from the everyday world of Boston? What does the portrait of Mrs. Alcorn
[pp. 171–173] contribute to the themes Cooney explores?
10. What effect does social status and family background have on the options available to the various women in the novel? Which female characters are most successful at overcoming the obstacles society has placed in their way?
11. What does Charlotte learn about herself at the hotel? How do Arthur, Mr. Alcorn, and Dickie, each in his own way, open her eyes to aspects of her personality she had previously suppressed or dismissed? What role do her sexual encounters with Arthur play in Charlotte’s metamorphosis?
12. “Why should someone’s life seem obvious and plain, and fully surfaced, like an enormous boulder in the middle of a flat, empty field, visible for miles, when it was so much closer to the truth that—if one’s life were like a giant rock—three-fourths of the rock, maybe more, would have to be underneath, invisibly connected to cores of things, for good reason?” [p. 198]. What does this quotation convey about Charlotte’s understanding of society and the demands it makes on individuals? In what ways does it illuminate how Charlotte has changed or matured during her stay at the hotel?
13. Why does Charlotte decide to search for her parents? Why does she decide not to see them when she learns where they are? How does Hays affect her decision?
14. Does the novel end happily? What do you think will happen to Charlotte and Hays in the future?
15. A Private Hotel for Gentle Ladies is set against the background of a cold, snowy New England winter. How is the weather a metaphor for the events the novel depicts? How does it reinforce the emotional world of the characters?
16. A Private Hotel for Gentle Ladies is reminiscent of many nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century novels of manners. Discuss the qualities it shares with novels set at the same historical moment. Does the author’s point of view and sensibilities differ from that of writers of the period? Does Cooney, for example, bring a contemporary attitude or bias to her descriptions of events and characters?
17. To what extent is Charlotte’s story a product of her time and situation? What parallels are there between Charlotte’s life and the lives of women in novels set in this century? Has the feminist movement and the acceptance of female sexuality and desire fundamentally changed the relationships between the sexes? Do class, social position, and economic opportunities still play a role in what women aspire to or in what they are able to achieve in both their public and private lives?
Posted December 30, 2011
Posted February 8, 2010
Posted January 29, 2008
I loved the story but it left me curios as to what will happend to her and if she recovered from her sickness? would their be a sequal to this story since the ending was unresolved,,'to me'Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 30, 2006
To escape from a home filled with wealthy in-laws who scorn her, Charlotte seeks refuge in a Boston Hotel. Cooney describes both the home she leaves, and the hotel in detail. . . tho Charlotte herself is fuzzily drawn.
0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 9, 2006
Posted December 9, 2008
She thought she was Cinderella when she married the son of a wealthy family. However, Charlotte hates where she lives, her husband¿s family mansion where his relatives are everywhere criticizing everything she does. Already in disfavor with her in-laws for not producing the next generation, Charlotte becomes so ill she is unable to leave her room for almost a year. When she finally leaves, she finds her husband enjoying the pleasures of a woman. --- Unhappy and disappointed in his betrayal, Charlotte has no place to go in puritanical 1900 Massachusetts except to see former family cook Mrs. Petty, who now works in Boston¿s Beechmont, A PRIVATE HOTEL FOR GENTLE LADIES. With no options, Charlotte stays there. Eventually she realizes that this is no hotel or shelter for single women, but a place where males of all ages and shapes visit the female guests to pleasure them. However she wonders if she can be one of them as she reflects on her childhood and with her husband and his family. --- Ellen Cooney paints an astute historical character study driven by Charlotte who breaks out of her web as she becomes aware that her past, her in-laws, a betrayal, and her illness (polio) does not prevent her from becoming a desirable woman. The story line looks deep into the present and past of Charlotte, enabling the audience to understand how the child makes the adult especially her inhibitions and doubts however these passages also abruptly occur disjointing the otherwise keen story line somewhat. Still readers will find A PRIVATE HOTEL FOR GENTLE WOMEN an appealing discerning period piece. --- Harriet KlausnerWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 19, 2011
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Posted March 3, 2009
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