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paris, he said readers' guide

These discussion questions are designed to enhance your group’s discussion about Paris, He Said, a novel about a woman who moves to Paris with her lover in order to pursue a career as an artist.

About this book:

Jayne Marks is questioning the choices she has made in the years since college and is struggling to pay her bills in Manhattan when she is given the opportunity to move to Paris with her wealthy lover and benefactor, Laurent Moller, who owns and operates two art galleries, one in New York, the other in Paris. He offers her the time and financial support she needs to begin her career as a painter and also challenges her to see who and what she will become if she meets her artistic potential.

For discussion:

1. What is Jayne’s primary motivation for moving to Paris with Laurent – love, ambition or something else? Does her move to Paris and life with Laurent sound appealing to you? Why or why not? And did your opinion on this change as the novel went on?

2. Initially, Jayne is appalled by the thought of an open relationship but eventually goes along with Laurent’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. Why do you think she does this?

3. Even though Laurent tells Jayne he doesn’t mind her seeing other men, and doesn’t overtly express feelings of jealousy, does he show signs of being possessive of her in other ways?

4. Does Jayne have a right to be jealous of the other artists Laurent supports? Why or why not? Similarly, does Laurent have a right to be jealous of Jayne’s relationship with Colin? Why or why not?

5. Early on in their relationship, Laurent tells Jane: “You want to live in the world as if you were a child.” Do you think this is a fair assessment of Jayne? Does her character change as the novel progresses? If so, how?


6. Do you like Jayne as a character? Which of her qualities do you admire? Which do you dislike?


7. In regards to women, Laurent claims, “I try to give back as much as I might take from them.” Considering what you know about his relationships with Jayne, his daughter, his ex-wife and the other artists he supports, do you think this is true? Why or why not?


8. Of all of Laurent’s girlfriends past and present, why do you think Sofia is the one Jayne is most curious about and bothered by?


9. How much of a role does gender play in the novel? Would your reaction to specific scenes, or the overall plot in general, be different if the characters’ genders were reversed?


10. Why does Jayne have such an intense reaction to seeing Colin for the first time in Paris? What are her true motivations for rekindling their romance?


11. At the opening of her show, Jayne likens her feelings upon seeing Susan to her reaction to seeing Laurent for the first time. Then, she feels “such a wave of self-consciousness and maudlin emotions” upon meeting the couple depicted in Chantal’s painting. Why does she have these strong responses in this setting? 


12. Why do you think Sneed chose to structure the book the way she did, into three parts divided by seasons and perspective? Did the sections told from Jayne and Laurent’s points of view make you view them differently as characters?


13. How much of a role does setting play in the novel? In what ways would the story be different if it took place somewhere other than Paris? Did you find that Sneed’s frequent lapses into French in her writing enhanced the story, or detracted from it? Why?


14. Do you think Jayne will stay in Paris with Laurent, or move back to New York to be with Colin? What would you do?


15. Is Paris, He Said a novel about romantic relationships with the art world as a backdrop, or vice-versa?


16. Susan Kraut is an actual working artist who teaches at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.  How does knowing that she's a real person affect your response to her presence in the novel? 

Suggested reading: 

Little Known Facts by Christine Sneed, How Should a Person Be? by Sheila Heti, Hidden in Paris by Corine Gantz, The Paris Wife by Paula McLain, Portraits of a Few of the People I've Made Cry by Christine Sneed, The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

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