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Reading Group Guide

Discussion Questions

The White Rose

1. From the opening page to the closing scene, white roses appear throughout the story. How does the symbolism of the white rose factor into the novel? What do they mean to Oliver in particular?

2. The White Rose opens with a scene told from Marian's perspective, making her the first character the reader gets to know. Yet by the time the novel comes to a close, the emphasis has shifted to Oliver. Why do you think the author chose to do this? Is The White Rose more one character's story than another?

3. Oliver is twenty-two years Marian's junior. In one instance he says to her, "I'd marry you today if I could. I have no problem with the age thing, you know I don't. I only mention it because I don't want to ignore that it's problematic for you." Why is the difference in their ages more of an issue for Marian than it is for Oliver?

4. Discuss marriage as it's presented in the novel, including Sophie's reasons for agreeing to marry Bart and why Marian refuses to end her marriage to Marshall.

5. How does Oliver's impulsive decision to masquerade as "Olivia" alter the events in the story? Why does he continue with the deception and especially to such an elaborate extent? Were you surprised by Marian's passionate response to Oliver when he was dressed in her clothing?

6. When Marian first reads the letter from Soriah she sets it aside, and there is no indication that she intends to take further action. Were you surprised to then learn she had arranged to meet Soriah and the resulting relationship that develops? What compels Marian to take on Soriah as a foster child?

7. Twice Sophia has the chance to introduce herself to Marian --- in the history department at Columbia University and on the street near Bloomingdales. Why does she let both opportunities go by without saying anything? What holds her back?

8. The White Rose is a re-imagining of the Strauss opera Der Rosenkavalier, which is about a man who must choose between two lovers --- an older woman and one nearer his own age. Does knowing this give you a different perspective on the story? In what ways?

9. Religion is a pervasive theme in the book. How do Marian, Oliver, and Sophie each view their Jewish heritage? In what ways do they draw on and/or deny the Jewish religion and its role in their lives?

10. The novelist and critic Edmund White said that in The White Rose Jean Hanff Korelitz "manages to talk about the gripping topics of our day, including race, wealth, aging, and our historical legacy." How does each of these topics play out in the storyline?

The White Rose
by Jean Hanff Korelitz

  • Publication Date: January 18, 2006
  • Paperback: 394 pages
  • Publisher: Miramax
  • ISBN-10: 1401359868
  • ISBN-13: 9781401359867