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Visible City
by Tova Mirvis

Published: 2015-04-14
Paperback : 256 pages
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“A glittering novel about fate, fantasy, and the anonymity of urban life.” —O, The Oprah Magazine

“Read Visible City. Tova Mirvis’s graceful yet vigorous New York novel is about the half-inadvertent window-peeping that city life enables, and where it can lead.” —New York ...
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Introduction

“A glittering novel about fate, fantasy, and the anonymity of urban life.” —O, The Oprah Magazine

“Read Visible City. Tova Mirvis’s graceful yet vigorous New York novel is about the half-inadvertent window-peeping that city life enables, and where it can lead.” —New York Magazine

After chaotic days of wrangling and soothing her young children, Nina spends her evenings spying on the quiet, contented older couple across the street. But one night, through her same window, she spies a young couple in the throes of passion. Who are these people, and what happened to her symbol of domestic happiness? Soon, Nina crosses paths with both couples on the streets of her Upper West Side neighborhood and, as anonymity gives way to different forms of intimacy, all begin to confront their own desires and disappointments. Shrewdly and artfully, Mirvis explores the boundaries between our own lives and the lives of others. From its lavish ghost subway stations to its hidden stained-glass windows, Visible City conjures a New York City teeming with buried treasures.
 
 “An utterly perfect, deeply moving evocation of contemporary Manhattan [that] reminded me of Paula Fox and Laurie Colwin, and also those master chroniclers of the privileged classes, Wharton and Fitzgerald . . . Brilliant.” —Joanna Smith Rakoff, Salon.com

“Mirvis’s meticulously choreographed novel surprises and moves us.” —New York Times Book Review

Editorial Review

No editorial review at this time.

Excerpt

One down and two across, there she was again, a lone woman in the window, pressed close to the glass. For several days, she had been there on and off, standing in front of the window, on crutches, as if wanting to be seen. ... view entire excerpt...

Discussion Questions

1. “At night, Nina went outside and looked at the houses beyond the fence. From here it was hard to know what really went on in people’s lives” (p. 135). Nina has a history of curiosity. What draws her to other people’s stories? Do you think this type of curiosity will continue?

2. “Sooner or later, someone would always know. Fifty blocks from home or five hundred, privacy was generally an illusion” (p. 154). Why does Leon think this? Do you think privacy is an illusion? Considering certain current events surrounding privacy online and the NSA’s intrusion on citizen’s privacy, how do you perceive privacy now? How do you keep your private life private?

3. “How wrong she had been to think she could gaze out unaffected” (p. 177). How does watching other people change Nina?

4. “Why for so many years had she tucked away the feeling that she was invisible?” (p. 205). Why does Claudia feel invisible? What does Claudia hide from those around her, and what does she only think she hides? How does this affect her relationships with those she loves? Do any of the other characters do this as well?

5. In this book, change is necessary, liberating, but it can also be a betrayal—not just for the characters, but also for the neighborhood itself. Why is it sometimes easier to orbit around the lives of others than to inhabit the center of one’s own world? Also, when we make permanent situations that are based on only partial truths, what happens when other truths start clamoring for recognition?


6. When Nina visits Leon’s apartment, he says “we’re much closer” (p. 137) to the construction. To Max the building going up is a source of endless fascination; to Claudia it is an appalling nuisance. Leon welcomes it even as he recognizes what it will mean for the status quo. Jeremy’s relationship to it is at first much more practical and hands on and of course undergoes the most radical shift. What does each character’s reaction to the new construction reveal about himself or herself?

7. Visible City is full of forbidden spaces, from Jeremy’s explorations to Emma’s story of the night zoo and Nina and Leon’s relationship. What draws the characters to these spaces?

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

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Book Club Recommendations

Member Reviews

Overall rating:
 
 
  "Well written but a bit contrived."by book-junkie (see profile) 08/25/15

Our group liked the character development and the unique aspects of the story but found some of the connections a little bit contrived. It did allow for some interesting discussion.

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