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Reading Group Guide

Discussion Questions

The Sweetest Dream: A Novel

1. How would you characterize the relationship between Julia and Frances Lennox? Were there any elements of their living arrangements that surprised you? How did you react when Sylvia came to stay in the Lennox house? Were Julia and Frances's reactions to her arrival typical in any way?

2. When Julia discusses the children's problems with Frances, she argues: "It's a good expression, that: screwed up. I know why they are...They're all war children, that is why. Two terrible wars and this is the result." (138) To what extent do you agree with her analysis? Do you think Julia has a special bias when it comes to the effects of war?

3. What role does Comrade Johnny play in the course of the book? Did you understand his political agenda? What were your impressions of his relationships with his children, Colin and Andrew; his wives, Phyllida and Frances, and his mother? How was his personality articulated?

4. What did you think of the hodgepodge of characters assembled around the Lennox kitchen table? In what ways are their complaints typical of teenagers? Did they express any adult concerns that you found noteworthy? Discuss your thoughts on Sophie's relationships with Andrew, Roland, and Colin.

5. During her liaison with Harold Holman, Frances confronts his idealistic vision of her former husband, Johnny: "And so they lay side by side, and if he was letting go dreams, such dreams, such sweet sweet dreams, she was thinking, Obviously I'm a very selfish person, just as Johnny always said." (120) To what do you think the title, The Sweetest Dream refers? Does this scene offer any clues?

6. How would you describe the scene that takes place at the dinner celebrating the publication of Colin's book? Are the actions and reactions of Frances, Johnny, Colin, and Andrew what you expected, based on their defined roles in the family?

7. Rose Trimble, the former Lennox houseguest turned journalist, attacks Colin, Julia, and Silvia in the course of her career, accusing them of Nazi affiliations. How does this turn of events affect Julia? How does it affect Silvia? Is Rose's behavior anticipated by her treatment of the Lennox family when she lives with them?

8. What did you think of Sylvia's transformation from a fragile, needy young girl to a courageous doctor in Zimlia? Are there aspects of her work that you found especially interesting, in light of her childhood? What are they?

The Sweetest Dream: A Novel
by Doris Lessing

  • Publication Date: December 24, 2002
  • Paperback: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial
  • ISBN-10: 0060937556
  • ISBN-13: 9780060937553