All This Heavenly Glory
by Elizabeth Crane
Charlotte Anne Byers is one gloriously flawed human being --- a character in whom every reader will see herself reflected. The story of Charlotte's life --- from her stint in the youth chorus of her mother's opera company to her battles with addiction, doomed love, and the burdens of familial duty --- comes to us through Charlotte's most private thoughts, her most outrageous associations, her most wicked barbs, her most painful memories, her most honest revelations.
This is fiction so intimate, so immediate, so involving that reading it is like making a new friend.
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1. "Ad" is a breathlessly worded personal that introduces just about every aspect of Charlotte's character: her desires, her quirks, her gripes and delights. How does it serve as a first impression of Charlotte? If you created a similar ad, how would it read? What would you include and what would you hope it conveyed about you?
2. At eight years old, Charlotte finds herself in the youth chorus of her mother's opera company, and the experience exposes her to a world of pageantry, melodrama, and the idea of castration. Was such a world too sophisticated for a young girl, or is Charlotte mature enough despite her tender age? And how does her precociousness affect the woman she becomes?
3. Charlotte's friendship with Declan is complex, and it causes her to think about fame, intimacy, and dependency. What does Declan's insecurity say about him? What does Charlotte's reponse to it say about her? What does she learn from him? How would you behave in that type of relationship?
4. Did you read this book as though it were a novel, or a story collection? What makes this a novel, or not?
5. Why do you suppose Crane chose to write most of Charlotte Anne's childhood stories in the present tense and the adulthood stories in the past tense? How does this contribute to your experience of the story? Do our distant memories feel constant in some sense?
6. What do you think of Charlotte Anne's spiritual life? Does it make her even less reliable as a narrator, or does it make her more human? Do you agree or disagree with her views on spirituality? How do her views evolve?
7. Clearly, Charlotte Anne has her flaws and her strengths. Is she someone you'd want to be friends with, or someone you'd want to strangle? If you were Charlotte Anne, would you want to strangle yourself ?
8. "Ad" and “Glory” both employ elements of fantasy, but most of the book is based in reality. How does fantasy contribute to the book and to your understanding of Charlotte Anne? Does it distract you? How so?
9. Jenna is certainly Charlotte Anne's touchstone. How might Charlotte Anne's life be different if she didn't have Jenna? Would it be better in any way? Who is your Jenna? How do you think your best friend would help you if you were faced with some of the same situations as Charlotte Anne?
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