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Excerpted from The Sense of Paper by Taylor Holden Copyright © 2006 by Taylor Holden. Excerpted by permission.
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Charlotte "Charlie" Hudson was once a star journalist covering war-torn countries and witnessing things that should never be seen. Now Charlie is trying to escape the ghosts that haunt her and her failed marriage by writing a book on the history of paper—a subject that has always fascinated her—and famed artist J.M.W. Turner. Her research introduces her to Sir Alan Matheson, a brilliant artist and acclaimed Turner scholar who has ghosts and secrets of his own. Charlie quickly falls under Alan’s seductive spell. Aroused by his sensuality and drawn inexorably into the vortex of his troubled past, she will come face-to-face with a shocking betrayal—and ever nearer to a danger she doesn't even suspect exists.
1. Why do you think this novel is entitled The Sense of Paper? What meaning do you think the word "sense" has in this title? Is it an apt title? A great title? What role does "sense" play in the novel?
2. Each section starts with a technical term for different forms of paper. Is each term a metaphor for what happens in the section of the story that follows?
3. Charlie quit her job as a journalist and became estranged from her husband. Why is Charlie running so desperately from her past?
4. Discuss your reaction to how Charlie handles various situations throughout the book, such as meeting Sarah Matheson and learning Angela’s history. Do you think she's troubled? Snoopy? Would you handle similar situations in the same way Charlie did?
5. Charlie and Carrie shared so much together, but took very different paths. Still, Carrie always came to Charlie as a friend and as a sister. Who do you think is the stronger of the two? What do you think of their friendship dynamic?
6. Charlie was once a tough journalist—tracking down the facts in countries torn apart by violence. Why is Charlie so reliant on Alan for her current book project?
7. Charlie and Alan are both unstable and have a lot of secrets. What do you think of their relationship? Are they good for each other or not? Are they addicted to each other for the wrong reasons?
8. Is there a common link to be found with the women in Alan’s life? Charlie, Sarah, Lori, Angela, Susie Ball? What are these women hiding?
9. Why is Charlie so intrigued by Angela? What feelings and similarities were unraveled during this search?
10. Why did Charlie choose to write a book on paper? How did Turner inspire her interests? What parallels can be drawn from Turner's life to the lives of the characters in the novel?
11. What did you learn about the history of paper? What lengths did people go to make paper? To get the "right" paper?
12. In this novel, paper plays a big role. Could paper be considered another character? Major or minor? How does it move the story along?
13. Could paper be seen as a metaphor? For what?
14. It is so easy for people to take paper for granted. While reading this novel, did you become more aware of paper—its many physical qualities as well as its many uses? Its beauty as an object in and of itself? How?
15. Do you think Charlie will ever begin to heal? To grow?
Posted December 9, 2008
War correspondent Charlotte ¿Charlie¿ Hudson may be home in England, but remains haunted by how close she came to dying while on assignment. Unable to focus on journalism and needing a distraction from her nightmares Charlie wrote about her haunting experience, Road to Rajak: A Day in the Life of Kosovo, but that failed to cleanse her mind. She turned to her husband Nick, but that proved dismal. Thinking of doing a book on the great early nineteenth century English romantic landscape artist JMW Turner, Charlie, on a whim to contain her internal demons, visits artist supply store L. Cornelissen & Sons. There she becomes fascinated with all the different types of paper on sale, mumbling out loud which paper JMW Turner would choose. Another customer responds saying none of these. He is highly regarded artist and Turner expert Alan Matheson. They talk over coffee as she thinks this is happenstance that they have met. As he encourages her paper chase, they begin to fall in love, but he has as many troubles as she does especially from live and dead females that lead to Charlie¿s need to know the truth. --- THE SENSE OF PAPER is an excellent modern day love story with a deep look at paper choices somewhat available today but especially during the nineteenth century and its importance to Turner. The mystery of the death of Matheson¿s daughter adds depth to understanding his ghosts and motives. Yet the core of this exquisite novel is the heroine who seeks something to affirm her reason for living she may have found this as she begins to comprehend THE SENSE OF PAPER (read the novel to comprehend the subtly of the title) during her research with Alan at her side encouraging her. --- Harriet KlausnerWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 7, 2006
Booklist said of this novel that it was 'lusciously textured' and 'full of emotional nuance as accurately and delicately rendered as Turner's clouds'. I couldn't agree more. Not only is it the compelling story of a woman's journey from near insanity after her wartime experiences, but it offers a page-turning insight into how paper - especially watercolour paper - is made and how important it was to the artist JMW Turner. This remarkable first novel by an established non-fiction author has something for everybody. I can't wait to see what she comes up with next!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.