The Lost Prince
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Recently returned from the experience of a lifetime in fin de siècle Vienna, where she met and tragically lost the first great love of her life, Eleanor Burden has no choice but to settle into her expected place in society, marry the man she is supposed to marry, and wait for life to come to her. As the twentieth century approaches, hers is a story not unlike that of the other young women she grew up with in 1890s Bostona privileged upbringing punctuated by a period of youthful adventure and followed by the inevitable acknowledgment of real lifeexcept for one small difference: Eleanor possesses an unshakable belief that she has advance knowledge of every major historical event to come during her lifetime.
But soon the script of events she has written in her minda script described by no less than Sigmund Freud as the invented delusions of a hystericbegins to unravel. Eleanor Burden, at once fragile and powerful, must find the courage of her deepest convictions, discover the difference between predetermination and free will, secure her belief in her own sanity, and decide whether she will allow history to unfold come what mayor use her extraordinary gifts to bend history to her will and deliver for her the life she knows she is meant to have.
Selden Edwards began writing The Little Book as a young English teacher in 1974, and continued to layer and refine the manuscript until its completion in 2007. It is his first novel. He spent his career as headmaster at several independent schools across the country, and for over forty years has been secretary of his class at Princeton, where he also played basketball. He lives in Santa Barbara, California.
- The idea of destiny is a major theme in this book. What are your thoughts about predetermination, and how do Eleanor’s beliefs affect her own life?
- If you were in Eleanor’s shoes, knowing how your life will play out, what would you do? Do you think you would feel stifled or liberated by knowing exactly what’s to come?
- What did you admire most and least about Eleanor? Were you able to relate to her?
- Why do you think the author chose to include intellectual greats like Freud, James and Jung in Eleanor’s life? What effect does their presence have on her story?
- How does it change Eleanor to learn that William James is her father? Why do you think he waited until his death to tell her?
- On his death bed, James tells Eleanor, “You see, my dear daughter, we shall meet again.” (p. 134) What do you think James means by this? How does loss, or the fear of loss, play out in her other relationships?
- Eleanor establishes strong friendships with most of the men around herHoneycutt, Jung, Jodl. Do you think Eleanor’s relationships with men are unique compared to those of most in this time period? Was there any particular friendship that stood out to you, and if so, why?
- Do you think Eleanor took advantage of Arnauld by seducing him? Do ethics apply if you already know that the outcome will be favorable?
- Jung’s theory of collective unconscious is described in the novel as “the ocean depth that connects us all” (p. 163). How does this theme play out in other parts of the novel, and in the book as a whole?
- There are some events in Eleanor’s life that are not foretold in her little book, such as the influenza. Do you think Wheeler left these hardships out on purpose, and if so, why? If not, why do you think things may not have gone exactly as they were meant to?
- Why do you think Eleanor feels it’s necessary to take her son with her to Europe, even though it’s not safe for either of them after the war? What would you have done in her place?
- What do you think of the revelation that Arnauld is a prince? Did it surprise you, why or why not?
- At the very end of The Lost Prince, Edwards writes, “And, for the first time in more than twenty years, she allowed herself to hear the music. It was the music of Vienna, the music of the waltz.” (p. 434) What role do music and art play in this novel?
- How do you think Eleanor’s life unfolds after the novel ends? Is her life a cyclical pattern that will continue foreverEleanor’s meeting with Wheeler and her remaining years spent living up to her predetermined path? Or do you think something else will happen?
- Were you satisfied with the ending, why or why not?