1. How do you think the coffeehouses as gathering places for writers, artists, and musicians influenced Austrian culture in the 1890s? Do we have an equivalent now?
2. Vienna is often described as a city of contrasts. Compare the dark and bright parts of it. Are there elements shared by both?
3. How does Emily react to seeing a part of the world so removed from her own? Do you think she's beginning to grow a social conscience?
4. Describe Jeremy's relationship with Emily. Does he truly love her?
5. Discuss the way Robert deals with Ivy while he's in prison. Do his efforts to protect her help or hurt her? Is there ever a case where shielding someone you love from difficult truths is a good idea?
6. Discuss the sort of freedom Sissi has. Infinite resources allow her to have a castle in Greece and to indulge many whims. At the same time, however, she's subject to myriad restrictions and denied information. Would you be able to live in such circumstances?
7. Discuss the different models of marriage seen in the book: The Emperor and Sissi, who happily tolerates her husband's "soul friendship" with another woman, Robert and Ivy's traditional views, and the Fortescues, whose marriage was intended to give little more than material comfort.
8. Do you think Lady Fortescue is a tragic figure?
A Fatal Waltz