Crossing Washington Square
Topics for Book Clubs

  • Rachel and Diana are opposites in many ways – one led by the heart, the other by her mind. Yet they are both sympathetic characters with their own strengths. Which character did you relate to more, and why?
  • Which character do you think changes the most during the course of the book?
  • Discuss the epigraph from Sense and Sensibility. How are Rachel and Diana like Marion and Elinor Dashwood in Jane Austen’s novel?
  • How does Diana’s past shape the kind of woman she has become at the start of the novel?
  • Were you satisfied at the end of the novel with the men Rachel and Diana end up with?
  • Rachel talks about the heroines of romance fiction as feisty and loved by good men because of their strength and independence. Are these the kind of heroines you like to read about or see in movies?
  • Where do you see Rachel and Diana in ten years time?
  • Women can have complicated work relationships. Why do you think this is so? Have you ever had an acrimonious relationship with a woman at work?
  • Near the end of the novel, Rachel realizes, “For Diana to carve out a room of her own in this man’s world of academe, she had built walls around herself – very lofty and sturdy walls.” Do you think some women have to “build walls” in order to get ahead in their careers?
  • Do you think Diana is right at the start of the novel. Should popular fiction and modern films like Clueless be barred from entering the “doors of learning”? Do you think it warrants and easy ride for students at university?
  • And what about snobbery concerning popular fiction? Have you ever experienced it? Have you ever been made fun of for the books you like to read?
  • What did you think of the way Rachel dealt with the Nilsen sister after her drunken episode in London? How might you have dealt with it differently?
  • Did the book make you wonder about the private lives of teachers and professors you might have been taught by?
  • Would you like to be a professor of English? If so, what would you like to study and teach?