NEW YORK CITY, 1992. At the American Academy of Classical Art, popular opinion has it that the school’s handsome and mysterious founder, Raphael Sinclair, is a vampire. It is a rumor Rafe does nothing to dispel.
Scholarship student Tessa Moss has long dreamed of the chance to study at Rafe’s Academy. But she is floundering amidst the ups and downs of a relationship with egotistical art star Lucian Swain.
Then, one of Tessa’s sketches catches Rafe’s attention: a drawing of a young woman in 1930s clothing who is covering the eyes of a child. The suitcase at her feet says Wizotsky. Sofia Wizotsky, the love of Rafe’s life, was lost during the Holocaust.
Or was she? Rafe suspects Tessa may be the key to discovering what really happened.
As Rafe finds excuses to interact with Tessa, they cannot deny their growing attraction to one another. It is an attraction forbidden by the Academy Board and disapproved of by anyone familiar with Rafe’s playboy reputation and Tessa’s softhearted innocence.
But Tessa senses the truth: despite his wealth, his women, and his townhouse filled with rare and beautiful treasures, Rafe is a haunted man…for reasons that have nothing to do with the rumors they whisper about him at school.
Intensely romantic and deeply moving, The Color of Light blends fact and fantasy in an unforgettable tale of art and passion, love and war, guilt and forgiveness, spanning the New York art scene, high-fashion magazine publishing, the glittering café society of pre-World War II Paris, and the evil stalking the back roads of Nazi-occupied Europe.
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Reading Group Guide
Topics & Questions for Discussion
This reading group guide includes discussion questions for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.
1. Is Tessa’s relationship with Lucian consistent with her character’s values? What does their affair offer her? Why do you think she stays with him, even though he cheats on her?
2. What is the significance of the painting of the Madonna and Child over Rafe’s fireplace?
3. Rafe has been involved with thousands of women, whether he sleeps with them or drinks their blood. What is the source of his promiscuity? What is it really about?
4. How does the tale of Sofia and Rafe and the circle of artists living in Paris intersect with the plot of the larger novel? In what ways does this magical tale of vampires connect with the brutality of the Holocaust and the ongoing life of the children of Holocaust survivors today?
5. Her small white hand glided over mine, alighting as gently as a butterfly. “We are just the same,” she said softly. How do Rafe’s recollections of his childhood compare to Sofia’s childhood? What do you think they shared in common?
6. Tessa’s grandfather refuses to talk about what happened during the war. Why do you think that is? Do you think it’s healthy or unhealthy for Holocaust survivors to talk about their war experiences?
7. “The terrible things that happen to us,” Tessa said slowly. “What we do with them…I think that’s what makes us artists.” Do you think this statement is true for most artists, writers, dancers, actors?
8. Tessa’s family is still affected by secrets and horrors that took place fifty years earlier. Do you think the events of the Holocaust still shape family dynamics, and affect the children and grandchildren of survivors, seventy years after the end of World War II?
9. How did Rafe and Yechezkel’s witnessing so much death up close impact them, respectively, as witness and survivor of the Holocaust? Why did both of them choose to keep details of this period of their life a secret from those closest to them for so long?
10. Do you think Rafe loves Tessa for herself? Or does he love her because she reminds him of Sofia?
11. Do you think that keeping a terrible secret has any effect on the secret-keeper? Could you forgive someone who hides a terrible secret? Why do you think Rafe doesn’t tell Tessa what really happened in Auschwitz until he’s dying?
12. There are several objects that appear in the past and the present of the story—Sofia’s wedding ring, the drawing of the mother and child over Rafe’s fireplace, the paintings hanging in Rafe’s mansion, his sketchbook. What is their significance in the past, and what is their significance in the present-day part of the story?
13. How did you feel upon discovering that Rafe misled Tessa about what he really did in Auschwitz? Do his actions as a vampire make him irredeemable?To what extent is it possible to forgive someone who honestly repents of having committed evil acts?
14. “This is my Paris,” Tessa said, spreading her arms wide. “This is where I belong.” She smiled. “In New York, you can be anyone you want to be.” Tessa chooses to remain in New York rather than to go to Paris. How do you feel about her decision?
15. “What about children, Tessa?” Portia was almost shouting. Wiry blond hairs were springing free of her tightly wrapped bun. “A family? A normal life?”
“David was normal,” said Tessa.
16. Tessa and her art friends all come from backgrounds that could be described as difficult or unusual. David is “normal,” and yet, he’s the one who snaps under pressure the night before the Graduation Exhibition. What is “normal” to you?