The Editor by Steven Rowley is a witty and heartwarming story about a son reconnecting with his mother. The following book club questions will have spoilers so if you haven’t read the novel yet, check out my review first.
After years of trying to make it as a writer in 1990s New York City, James Smale finally sells his novel to an editor at a major publishing house: none other than Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Jackie–or Mrs. Onassis, as she’s known in the office–has fallen in love with James’s candidly autobiographical novel, one that exposes his own dysfunctional family. But when the book’s forthcoming publication threatens to unravel already fragile relationships, both within his family and with his partner, James finds that he can’t bring himself to finish the manuscript.
Jackie and James develop an unexpected friendship, and she pushes him to write an authentic ending, encouraging him to head home to confront the truth about his relationship with his mother. Then a long-held family secret is revealed, and he realizes his editor may have had a larger plan that goes beyond the page…
Let’s get into the discussion questions
- Let’s discuss James’ first interaction with Jackie! Why did his agent withhold the information that the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis was his editor? How do you think you would have reacted if you were James?
- What did you think about the author’s depiction of Jackie throughout the novel? What stuck out the most to you about her? Why do you think she was so engaged with James’ novel? Do you have an interest in the Kennedys? Did you know that Jackie was an editor at one point in her life?
- Let’s discuss the reasons why James decided to write about his mother. Why was his mother so upset when she found out he wrote a novel about her?
- James also has a very complicated relationship with his father—who was never accepting of him. Do you think he knew all along that he wasn’t James’ biological father? Do you believe he had any regrets about his actions to James and his mother?
- Why did James have such difficulty in writing the ending to his book? What was he afraid of revealing to the world but also to himself?
- What are some of the ways Jackie pushed him to finish the ending, (which really was re-connecting with his mother)?
- Why did James stop going by Francis? What did the name Francis signify to both James, his mother and father? Let’s discuss the scene where his mother reveals that a man named Frank was his biological father.
- Let’s now talk about James’ relationship with Daniel. Why do you think James let himself get so entranced with Mark? Were you surprised Daniel eventually forgave James? Do you think James and Daniel are in it for the long run?
- Let’s discuss the significance of James’ mother attending his book launch party.
- Now let’s talk about the ending. His mother finally asks why he wrote about her and he says:
You’re the most extraordinary women I’ve ever met.
She then calls him Francis again. How did this whole experience help repair their relationship?
- Do you think James will ever try to find his biological father?
- Why do you think mother/son and mother/daughter dynamics can get so complicated?
Additional book recommendations
Here’s some additional book picks to add to your list!
While Daisy Jones is a fictional character—she sure feels real in Daisy Jones & The Six.
Everyone knows Daisy Jones & The Six, but nobody knows the reason behind their split at the absolute height of their popularity . . . until now.
Daisy is a girl coming of age in L.A. in the late sixties, sneaking into clubs on the Sunset Strip, sleeping with rock stars, and dreaming of singing at the Whisky a Go Go. The sex and drugs are thrilling, but it’s the rock ’n’ roll she loves most. By the time she’s twenty, her voice is getting noticed, and she has the kind of heedless beauty that makes people do crazy things.
Also getting noticed is The Six, a band led by the brooding Billy Dunne. On the eve of their first tour, his girlfriend Camila finds out she’s pregnant, and with the pressure of impending fatherhood and fame, Billy goes a little wild on the road.
Daisy and Billy cross paths when a producer realizes that the key to supercharged success is to put the two together. What happens next will become the stuff of legend.
The making of that legend is chronicled in this riveting and unforgettable novel, written as an oral history of one of the biggest bands of the seventies. Taylor Jenkins Reid is a talented writer who takes her work to a new level with Daisy Jones & The Six, brilliantly capturing a place and time in an utterly distinctive voice.
The Dinner List by Rebecca Serle is similar to The Editor in the sense that it depicts a real person—in this novel’s case, Audrey Hepburn.
“We’ve been waiting for an hour.” That’s what Audrey says. She states it with a little bit of an edge, her words just bordering on cursive. That’s the thing I think first. Not: Audrey Hepburn is at my birthday dinner, but Audrey Hepburn is annoyed.”
At one point or another, we’ve all been asked to name five people, living or dead, with whom we’d like to have dinner. Why do we choose the people we do? And what if that dinner was to actually happen? These are the questions Rebecca Serle contends with in her utterly captivating novel, The Dinner List, a story imbued with the same delightful magical realism as One Day, and the life-changing romance of Me Before You.
When Sabrina arrives at her thirtieth birthday dinner she finds at the table not just her best friend, but also three significant people from her past, and well, Audrey Hepburn. As the appetizers are served, wine poured, and dinner table conversation begins, it becomes clear that there’s a reason these six people have been gathered together.
Feel free to discuss The Editor below!