by Isabel Fonseca


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After more than twenty years of life in London, Jean and Mark Hubbard decamp to a remote tropical island in the Indian Ocean. But when Jean, a health columnist, discovers a salacious love letter addressed to her husband, she realizes that she has misdiagnosed some acute pathologies in her own life. The long idyll of their mutual ease is over - and a new quest has just begun. Looking for answers, Jean goes undercover with a surreptitious correspondence that propels her on to alarming and illuminating adventures of her own. Isabel Fonseca explores the impulses that color and disrupt our lives even as they reveal, ever more clearly, the nature of love.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780307386519
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 06/16/2009
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 320
Product dimensions: 5.16(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.69(d)

About the Author

In addition to her best-selling Bury Me Standing, Isabel Fonseca has written for a wide range of publications, including The Independent, Vogue, The Nation, and TheWall Street Journal. Born in New York, she was educated at Columbia and Oxford and lives in London with her husband, Martin Amis, and their two daughters.

Reading Group Guide

“Fearless. . . . Fonseca shows off a vicious humor and an unsparing prose style in this ink-dark foray into marriage's murkier precincts.”

The introduction, questions, and suggestions for further reading that follow are designed to enliven your group's discussion of Attachment, Isabel Fonseca's provocative novel about desire, the responsibility that comes with age and family, and the impulses that color and disrupt our lives even as they reveal, ever more clearly, the nature of love.

1. What do you think ultimately compels Jean to correspond with Giovana, pretending to be her husband? A sense of propriety? A perverse curiosity? How would you describe her complex motivations? What would you do if you were in her position?

2. In what ways is this a novel about the differences between men and women? How does the author challenge (and/or maintain) standard notions of such a divide? Would you describe this as feminist literature?

3. What kind of role do you think Jean's family played in her falling in love with Mark? How did her brother's death, her mother's critical eye, and her father's stoic detachment lead her to Mark? How does the author probe this question?

4. How do you think Jean's “Americanism” informs her outlook? In what ways does the novel explore the differences between American and British women (and men)?

5. Does Mark remain a mystery at the end of the novel? A mystery both to Jean and to the reader? What do you think the author's intentions were in this respect?

6. How does the author use humor in Attachment? Discuss specific examples.

7. Where does Jean seem happiest—in St. Jacques, London, or New York? Or does she only seem happy in her memories of these places? Discuss the role of memory in defining happiness.

8. Why do you think the author chose to invent an island (St. Jacques) when the other settings are recognizable—e.g., New York and London?

9. “Paradise Lost” is a theme in the book. Is St. Jacques a kind of Eden, and, if so, what role does it play? What other forms of lost Eden may be detected in the novel and what is the author getting at with this investigation?

10. Is “Eden” always a place, or can it be a time of one's life—the past, for example—or childhood? How does Jean's accession to knowledge alter her sense of herself and her world?

11. Where does Jean belong? And what is her sense of belonging? Is the idea of “home” important in the novel? How does that idea change over time?

12. Jean seems restless. How does nostalgia affect Jean, and each of us, as we age?

13. Attachment has an adultery plot. But is the book primarily about betrayal? To what extent does the protagonist's shifting feeling about aging influence her sense of her own life story?

14. Why does Jean wait so long to confront Mark? Is it because of fear? Because of love? Do her decisions in this respect make her old-fashioned? If so, how is she also a modern woman?

15. On page 128, the author uses the seasons as a metaphor for one's life, suggesting that there is a natural progression to it. Do you agree? How does Attachment challenge this notion? How does it support it?

16. Two themes in Attachment are competition and talent. How do the different characters manage these behaviors? Which of them are more or less adept at it? How do these themes effect the action of the novel? And Jean's character as a lawyer turned writer?

17. How does the author use irony to create suspense in Attachment? Discuss, for example, Dan and Sophie's roles in the novel.

18. Attachment is a novel about husbands and wives—but it is also a story about families. Discuss the ways in which the author depicts the modern family. Do some relationships feel more realistic than others? Which ones do you wish the author had explored further?

19. To some extent—the author seems to suggest—we live our lives in our heads. Discuss the way Jean's imagination, her sense of ideals, her morality, and her fear are manifested in her mistakes. Is Jean's rich inner life ultimately a burden? In what ways it is also an asset in this story?

20. Toward the end of the novel, Jean pleads that she doesn't know who her friends are yet. What role does friendship play in Attachment—and, more generally, in our adult lives?

21. Regret is a powerful and often shifting force in Attachment. How does regret affect the actions of the characters in this novel? For example, what does Jean and Larry's relationship tell us about the sacrifices we make in life, and how we manage regretting them?

22. Is Mark a sympathetic character? In what ways would this novel be different if the narration were shared between Jean and Mark? That is, if we had access to Mark's voice, without Jean's filter? Would Mark have been a more sympathetic character?

23. If you could add an epilogue to Attachment, what do you think it would be about? Where do you think Jean's world—her marriage, her family, her career—is headed? Do you think the novel ends satisfactorily?

24. The author seems to relish her ability to shock readers. What would you say was the most shocking revelation in Attachment? Discuss how it changed your relationship with the characters and with the book.

Customer Reviews

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Attachment 1.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 12 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
All I can say is this book was so boring that halfway through I stopped reading it. It just goes on and on about nothing important.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was so disappointed in this book! At about 1/2 into the book, I realized I just couldn't keep reading waiting for something to happen. There is no depth to the main character and nothing to relate to, no plot, no nothing! Save yourself the time and frustration and do not read this book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I REALLY tried hard to get into this book, I really did. But the plot is so slow and boring and the incessant descriptive prose almost put me to sleep. How the main character manages to go months without confronting her husband about his infidelity is beyond me. By page 150, I just didn't care anymore and stopped reading. Save yourself some time and read something, ANYTHING else.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Over halfway through this atrocity, I couldn't take it anymore and did something I have never done before: I returned a book. The plot, if there is one, moves extremely slowly, yet the style of writing is almost manic in how it jumps from location to location and time period to time period. The result is a read that was oddly neither compelling nor relaxing. If you'd like to torture yourself, try it in February or March when you have nothing else to do with your time. For summer reading with some depth, try 'The Condition,' with it's fine character development and writing, or 'Those Who Save Us,' also a well-written, page-turner.
laVermeer on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
There are books written for certain audiences ¿ women of a certain age, for instance. This is one of those books, and if you're not part of its intended audience, you won't enjoy it. Similarly, reviewers sometimes describe prose as "closely observed" or "richly detailed"; in the case of this narrative, it means that the story was interminable. I could not appreciate this novel.
bobbieharv on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An irritating shallow book in which I ended up disliking all the characters, especially the protagonist who was preoccupied with her husband's unfaithfulness as she herself betrayed him in various ways.
ccayne on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is the story of what happens to a 20+ year marriage when Jean finds a salacious email to her husband, Mark. Jean enters into the email conversation, masquerading as her husband and keeps her knowledge of it to herself. Things get quite complicated and I don't the author fleshed out the characters enough for the story to work. It seems plot driven and I think it would have benefited from a character driven approach. I never understood any of them and the ending just left me completely baffled.
coolmama on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I was thrilled to see a novel from Fonseca -- having put "Bury Me Standing" on my top books of all times list.I was so disappointed and bored with the one dimension and boring story of "Attachment" I just stopped reading it -- while 2/3 of the way through! This is something I never do -- and I think shows what an unreadable book and story it was.The main characters had no substance -- American Jean, married to British Mark who gets email from his porno mistress - where was this going? What is their relationship with their daughter Victoria? And, who cares????
DubaiReader on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Not recommended.The 2 1/2 star average rating given for this book is a pretty accurate representation of the response of our book group who felt that the sexual content was rather too explicit and the story itself was a bit weak. In reward for our efforts to finish the book we weren't even sure whether the protagonist stayed with her husband or left him.The central character is Jean, a forty-something journalist with a syndicated health column. Her husband of many years is an advertising excutive and together they decide to leave the rat race and move to the tropical island of St Jacques. This was one of the better parts of the book - the island was picturesque and vibrant, although only a handful of local characters appear.When Jean picks up correspondence relating to Giovanna, Mark's 'bit-on-the-side', she starts to question their future together and all his actions are analysed in relation to this new discovery. However, rather than confront him with it, she impersonates him and corresponds with Giovana by e mail. Needless to say things get out of hand, ultimately threatening their future together.I found Jean to be rather a sorry character, absorbed in herself and rather selfish. I was frustrated by her reasoning for not confronting Mark "because the moment had passed".There are thousands of better books out there - I'd give this one a miss.
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