Such A Pretty Girl: Discussion Guide

  1. Like many of T. Greenwood’s novels, Such a Pretty Girl explores the relationship between mothers and daughters. Discuss how Ryan’s relationship with Fiona changes over time. And how is Ryan’s parenting of Sasha a response to her own mother’s failures?
  2. Fiona is an aspiring actress when we meet her, yet her dreams are ultimately unfulfilled. How does this affect her relationship with her daughter? Do you think that she is both proud of her and jealous as well?
  3. What was your reaction to Fiona’s claim that she was protecting Ryan by making the deal she made with Zev Brenner? Do you think it was true? Who or why not? What were her other motivations?
  4. Do you believe that Fiona should be punished for her complicity in Zev Brenner’s schemes? Is what she did on par with what Margie did?
  5. There are two major settings in the novel: Lost River in Vermont and Westbeth in the West Village in New York City. Think about the contrast between these two places, and what each represents to Ryan. Why do you think she fled to Vermont when she leaves her career behind? Which setting did you prefer?
  6. The 1970s was a dark time for New York City: it was both morally and financially bankrupt. However, for Ryan and the other children at Westbeth, it is magical. Discuss the depiction of childhood in this novel. What do you recall about your own childhood?
  7. As an adult, Ryan is forced to revisit her childhood through a contemporary lens. As an adult, she is able to see how the adults in her life both failed and exploited her. Is there anything from your own life that you now see through a different filter?
  8. The modeling industry and the film industry clearly exploit Ryan’s innocence and beauty. She argues that Henri really saw her – and that his photos were not exploitative at all. Do you think this is true? Or is it possible that Ryan was wrong about his intentions?
  9. In recent years, many women have reexamined past experiences thanks to the #metoo movement. Behavior that was once tolerated or dismissed or even expected by men has come under new scrutiny. How do you think the #metoo movement liberates Ryan?
  10. Gilly is Ryan’s best friend, and the single consistent presence in her life for decades. What role does he play in their lives as children, and how does this carry over into their adult lives?
  11. Ryan has kept the secret of what happened on the night of the blackout for decades. Why do you think she does not reveal what Raymond did to her to anyone but Henri?
  12. Ryan’s anxiety begins as a child and is something she contends with her whole life. How does this manifest in the way she parents Sasha.
  13. If Ryan had not been “discovered” by Margie, what do you think she would have done with her life? Do you have any moments in your own life that changed your trajectory?
  14. Discuss the photo that Henri took on the night of the blackout and what it means to each of the characters: Ryan, Fiona, Henri, and Zev Brenner. What does it “prove” to the media?
  15. This book is also about the various kinds of family’s – the ones we are born into and the ones we make. Who do you think is Ryan’s “family”? How is her family structure similar to and different from your own?