Chapter 1

What do we learn about Cosima’s background? For what has it prepared her? What elements of a conventional woman’s upbringing have been denied her?

Is it significant that Cosima’s mother had died long ago, and that she had not been especially close to her father?

What are features of her early relationship with Tom Kingston? Does this suggest another well-known literary pair? (Tom and Maggie in The Mill on the Floss)

Chapter 2
What is Cosima’s reaction to provincial social gatherings?

What had been the nature of her relationship to her father, and how is she affected by his death? What does he leave her?

What does she decide to do? Can you think of previous literary heroines who have made a similar decision? Heroes?

What are her reactions on arriving in London?

Chapter 3
Who are some of the people she meets in the boarding house?

As she travels to the publishers and back, how does she respond to the people passing in the street? (wants to hear their stories, 21)

What do we learn about the character and tastes of Mr. Carleton? Is it significant that the first literary critic she meets likes dislikes novelty in literature?

What does she learn about the occupation of her fellow litterateur, Miss Neville? What does it mean to “museum fake”?

Chapter 4
What does Miss Neville find unpleasant about the British Museum library? (no ventilation, limited hours)

What discouraging advice does she give to Cosima about ways to place her literary efforts?

What does she learn from Miss Phelps about Mr. Carleton’s life and character?

What has prompted her to ask to be permitted to view a surgical operation?

Chapter 5
What results from her eating dinner with a young man who desires her company? Has she violated the canons of propriety?

Is she rude in leaving his company abruptly? (he considers that she cannot be a “nice” woman, 41)

Whom does she meet at the bar of the pub, and what sentiments does the latter express? (thinks ill of men)

Chapter 6
What is the reader supposed to think of Mr. Carleton’s asking her warm herself by his fire? Why is he concerned that others in the boarding house not hear her leave?

What tale does Cosima learn from her fellow boarder Mrs. Barton about the source of the latter’s unhappiness? What enables Mr. Barton to deprive her of her 6 year old son?

When she visits Mr. Carleton for tea, what views does he give about women’s character and proper occupations? What life does he believe a woman must live before she can become a great writer?

Does Cosima answer him well? What does she suspect about the nature of his intentions toward her?

What does she tell him of her emotional life? What does her forthrightness reveal about her character?

Why does she agree to accompany Mr. Carleton to a restaurant and the theater in the company of his sister?

Chapter 7
When Cosima visits Bess Haywood, what views of men does she express? How has she behaved  towards her admirers?

Do we have reason to suspect that the woman who accompanies Mr. Carleton and Cosima to the theater is not his sister? Does the narrative voice express any forms of prejudice?

What does Cosima find unpleasant about the meal and theatrical musical?

How does Cosima respond to Mr. Carleton’s advances? Are his apologies sincere? With what final retort does she leave him?

Chapter 8
What observations does Cosima make about the poor women she visits in the hospital? Could her views be class-biased?

When she visits Bess, what does Cosima learn about the latter’s history? What vengeance had Bess’s mother taken on her father?

How does the publisher, Mr. Haddon, respond to Cosima’s manuscript? What painful remarks does he make on her prospects in the marketplace?

What final advice does he give on revising her book? What stylistic features are especially unsuitable, in his view?

As you think of books from the 1880s and 1890s which you have read, would many fit Mr. Haddon’s prescriptions?

Chapter 9
What revisions is Cosima forced to make to her book?

What horrible change does she learn has occurred to Mrs. Barton? What has happened to her child?

What seem the effects of this experience on Mrs. Barton? Mr. Barton? Cosima?

What new friend does Cosima meet in British Museum reading room? What kind of stories does she write? (those based on historical events)

Who is her brother? What unusual feature of her brother’s mode of life does she report?

Chapter 10
How is Cosima’s first book received? What financial worries begin to beset her?

How does her second novel progress? What emotions overtake her in her solitary employment?

Who enters her life at this point? What pleasant associations does each hold for the other?

At their first meal together, what observations does Tom make about her publisher’s treatment of her?  What do they next agree to do together?

Should she have been more cautious in spending so much time with a man whom she considers only as a brother? What foreshadowing occurs in her claim that he and she will never bore one another? (103)

Chapter 11
What encourages Tom to propose marriage to Cosima? Does he have reason to believe she might wish to marry him?

What does Tom suggest as inducements to her to imagine a future with him? Why is she hesitant to accept?

What inner thought processes cause her to consider his offer?

Why does she state that she will give him an answer in a week? Should she have set a longer period in which they could become more acquainted and discuss the details of their possible future?

Chapter 12 Under what conditions does Cosima agree to marry Tom? Why does neither see her lack of “love” as an important bar? What may each mean by “love”?

What news does Cosima receive about the prospects of her second novel? (publisher will take it)

What is Tom’s reaction to meeting Bess Haywood, and Bess’s to meeting Tom?

Why does Bess believe her friend will be unhappy in marriage? Is it chiefly marriage in general to which she objects, men in general, or Tom?

What new sensations does Cosima experience on visiting the Mallory home and meeting Quentin Mallory?

Why does this not prompt her to attempt to break off her engagement? (unreasonable  to expect any man to have all virtues)

Chapter 13 When Cosima pays a return visit to the Mallorys, what impresses her about Quentin Mallory’s comments on her novel?

How does she respond to the German lieder sung by Lucilla Mallory?

What confession does she make, and how do the Mallorys respond privately to her confession that she is about to marry a man with whom she has little in common and does not love?

What attempt does she make to release herself from her engagement, and why does it fail? Should Tom have sensed a danger, or she been more persistent?

What do you think of Tom’s threat that he would “go to the dogs” without her? That their arranged-for flat and furniture would be wasted?

Chapter 14 What emotions does Cosima feel on her wedding morning? How does she react to the wedding itself?

Do you feel that anything besides incompatibility of tastes is at issue here?

What contrasting opinions are expressed by the two friends who visit Cosima after her marriage? Which one is the more accurate?

What views does Quentin express on Cosima’s new book? What type of literature does he believe would be most valuable? (144-45) Is this what Cosima wants to write?

In his view, what has made the eighteenth century interesting to readers of the nineteenth century? Would these views have been shared by the author?

Why is Cosima so dissatisfied with the Mallory’s visit? (Tom’s jokes are trite; Tom dislikes them, 146)

Chapter 15
How does Cosima’s second book fare? What has happened to her desire to write another novel?

What kind of literary work does Quentin obtain for her? (periodical writing on eighteenth-century magazines)

How does Cosima respond to her first visit to a music hall? Among the performers, which does she admire? (the dogs)

Whom do she and Tom encounter in the music hall? What rather unusual arrangements are made for a dinner out? (Mr. Sargent and Bess with Tom and Cosima)

Chapter 16
What characterizes the Kingstons’ dinner with Bess and Mr. Sargent?

During Tom’s absence in Liverpool, what expedition do Quentin, Lucilla and Cosima enjoy? What do they discuss?

How do the friends respond to her coded expressions of dissatisfaction?

Whom does she encounter as she spends her night on a park bench by the river? Do these seem a realistic cross-section of persons one might encounter under such circumstances?

What emotions and physical sensations overcome her as she returns home? What recognition overcomes her?

Chapter 17
On his return, how does Tom respond to her outburst about the meaning of marriage?

How does he respond to the news of their expected child? What plans does Cosima begin to make?

What are the qualities of their new neighbors, the Mackays? What unconventional views of motherhood does Mrs. Mackay express?

How does Cosima respond to Mr. Mackay’s intellectual interests? (realizes that people she had formerly scorned were worthy, 175)

How does Cosima respond to Mr. Sargent’s enthusiastic remarks on his love for Bess Haywood?

Chapter 18
Who visits her during her holiday at Westgate? What seems to be the relationship between Bess Haywood and Mr. Sargent?

What changes does she note when she and Tom visit their former home?

What causes Cosima and Tom to feel alarmed at the situation of Mr. Sargent? When Cosima visits Bess, what does she learn of his past behavior?

Who visits Bess’s home, and for what is she grateful?

Does it seem quite reasonable that Bess Haywood should be entirely confident of the results of her hypocritical dalliance? (he could in fact have killed her, or simply made up his mind to walk away)

Chapter 19
What event causes Bess’s arrest?

What reports do Tom and Mrs. Mackay give of the trial? Whose side do they take? What report is given by Bess herself?

Do you find this outcome plausible?

What views does Bess hold of the justice of courts? What sorts of evidence has she been gathering, and to what end? (reports of malfeasance on the part of judges and parliament)

What shocking event has occurred to Mr. Sargent? How does Bess respond when she hears the news?

Chapter 20

What unhappy event disrupts the tenor of Cosima’s life? Does this seem symbolic?

Had her child lived, how might this have complicated/altered the plot?

What does Cosima state should be the subject matter of a novel? (development of individual, 207-208) What other types of novels does she resist writing?

Is A Writer of Books such a novel?

What advice does Tom give her on writing? What inconsistencies does Cosima note?

(Are Tom’s attitudes changing? Or is his characterization somewhat inconsistent?)

Chapter 21

What request does Lucilla make of Cosima on her last visit? What do Lucilla’s concerns reveal about her character?

How does Cosima react? Are there other occasions in the book when she has expressed such open emotion?

What parting reflections and advice does Lucilla give? Do you think these are good ones? (213) Why will not Cosima act on them?

How is Lucilla characterized after her departure? (“the woman she loved,” 214)

How does Cosima attempt to comfort Quentin in his grief over his sister’s death?

What changes occur in Quentin’s life after his loss? (aunt’s regime bad for his health and spirits) Is there some gender stereotyping in this portrayal?

How has Tom altered in his attitude toward the Mallorys? What generous offer does he make, and what complications may be anticipated?

Chapter 22

What reception does Quentin Mallory’s second book have?  Into what habits of conversation do he and Cosima fall?

When he visits the Kingstons in northern England, what poem by Thomas Campion does Cosima cite? How does the poem apply to her case?

What views does she express on the relationship between  art and social reform? What does she believe to have been the characteristics of her own age? (movement toward freedom, 226)

What forbidden topic do they discuss, and what messages are conveyed?  Is it tactful that Quentin should speak in allegory?

How does she respond to his allusion to her as the pearl of great price? (227)

What are the narrator’s views on the different reactions of men and women to the prospect of an impossible love?

Why does Quentin promise to continue visiting the Kingstons in London? (228) What form of chivalry does the narrator impute to him? (229)

What emotions does Cosima feel as she absorbs this change of relationship? (happy, 230)

What does she now find inadequate about her reasons for marriage? Her treatment of the topic of love in her books?

How is her next manuscript received by her publisher? What reaction does she have to his criticism? (finds it “as dull as real life,” 232)

Chapter 23

How do Cosima and Quentin behave when they meet again?

What does Cosima claim she is able to do in addition to dreaming? (“I can work and dream too,” 235)

With what feelings is Cosima overtaken on Quentin’s departure? (235) 

What hopes does she entertain after a pleasant social visit with Quentin and his aunt? (they would grow old cherishing their love, 236)

Does this seem realistic? Unselfish?

What good professional news does Cosima receive? (her book accepted by “Whitetrees” [Blackwoods])

How does Cosima react to her husband’s renewed romantic attentions? (238)

What circumstance has ironically aided Bess Haywood’s career?

What contemporary writers does Bess mention as worth attention? (Henley, Archer, Meredith, Pinero, 239)

What does Bess identify in Cosima’s situation, and what does she recommend that the latter should do? (240) In the terms of the novel, is this good advice?

Does Cosima express the wish to leave Tom? (240)

What information and evidence does Bess provide her? What aspects of the past do they explain to her? (the diamond brooch, his moodiness)

What rapid decision does Cosima make, and on what grounds? (242) Does this seem hasty?

Chapter 24

On what grounds does Quentin Mallory reject her proffer of cohabitation? Do you think he was wise, in the context of the time? (he realizes this is a mood that will pass, 246; she would be a social exile, 247; he understands double standard)

Does the narrative voice approve his decision? If so, why would a new woman novelist create an “anti-adultery” plot?

Do either Cosima or Quentin believe that marriage is a religious duty?

What belated suggestion of Quentin’s does she reject? How do they part?

What good news does Tom give her on her return home?

How does he respond when confronted with the letters from Bess? What plea does he make? (250) What does he fear if she should leave him? (his uncle may hold this against him)

What offer does she make when he asks her to remain? Does this remind you of any prior Victorian plot? (Tenant of Wildfell Hall, 252)

How does he respond to the news that she has become attached to another? Why has she  told him? What aspects of the story does she emphasize? (253)

Does his inconsistency seem in character? How does Cosima respond? (states that she despises him, he will never see her face again, 253)

Why do you think the novelist presents such an abrupt and angry farewell?

Chapter 25

How does Mrs. Mackay receive her tale?

What cheers her in the long, favorable review she receives?

What recognitions enable Cosima to turn afresh to her labors? Will she be able to support herself?

What final mood is expressed in the novel’s final paragraph, in which Cosima looks out on the moonlit street? Is it appropriate that the mood be nuanced and multi-layered?

Why do you think the novel doesn’t end with her return to Quentin, a divorce, or another life?

What do you think of the realism of the portrayal of the friendship between Bess and Cosima? Of the reasons for the end of Cosima and Tom’s marriage?

If in fact these relationships/incidents seem a bit forced, what purpose within the novel do they serve?

Are there any lesbian overtones in the relationships between Miss Haywood and the other women who admire her?

Are there observations or characterizations in this novel which seem gender “essentialist”?

At what point do issue of social class surface in the plot? (Quentin knows that women of Cosima's class are forced to put on a mask of reserve)

Is Arnold Bennett’s claim that Symonds work shows wit and intellect, though in the service of a one-sided cause, seem mostly fair?

Might this be said to be an anti-marriage plot novel? An anti-adultery plot novel? What would you say are the novel's basic themes?

Is this a good ending, granted the book’s themes? How does it resemble that of other New Woman novels you have read? Other novels of the 1890s?

What kind of future would the novel advocate for human relationships?