The French Revolution Discussion Guide - for Book Clubs and Interested Persons

Tremendous thanks to Patty DeVlieg of the Excelsior Book Club, who came up with these terrific discussion questions (and runs the best darn book club in San Francisco).

  1. Each chapter of The French Revolution is titled with a specific historical episode, each of which appears in historical order, starting with Bastille Day, and ending with Waterloo.  How do events of the novel’s chapters track with historical events of the French Revolution?
  2. Were you inspired to review the historical facts of the actual French Revolution?
  3. The novel paints an affectionate portrayal of San Francisco as a quirky, idealistic enclave. Do you feel the same way?
  4. Did the novel make you laugh? If so, which episodes are your favorites?
  5. The novel takes the unusual step of moving from the past (1989), into projecting into the future (2018?)  Given that the novel ends with a bizarre family crucible in the “Waterloo” chapter, what is the author’s view of the future? How plausible was the author’s projection of the political future of the City?
  6. Who were the historical Marat and Robespierre, and how do their stories track with the Van Twinkle twins?
  7. How exactly did Jasper lose his sight? 
  8. What role does Murphy play, the orphan who is raised by a Korean immigrant family for profit motives? Does Murphy parallel the historical role of Napoleon?
  9. Is Robespierre's "Stop The War" campaign (considering that the mayor of San Francisco has virtually no influence on national or foreign policy), a cynical reflection on political reality in the U.S. in general, or a comment on the whackier aspects of traditional San Francisco politics, or a combination of the two?
  10. Do you think Robespierre’s “Stop The War!” platform represents the author’s views?
  11. The author predicts that the Giants would win the World Series in 2014. How do you think we felt when the Giants won in 2010?
  12. The French Revolution was initially released on Twitter. Do you think this was purely a publicity stunt, or is there something about the message of the book that fits the tweeting idea? Considering that the book is titled The French Revolution, was releasing a book in tweets a revolutionary idea?
  13. In the 19th century, Dickens’ released his novels in serialized installments (A Tale of Two Cities, Dickens’ novel of the French Revolution, was released in 1859 in 32 weekly installments). Is releasing a novel over Twitter a modern equivalent?
  14. Did the medium chosen for the novel’s initial release (3700 tweets) affect your opinion of the book?