SOUL

Tobsha Lerner

 In 19th century Britain, Lavinia is married to an older man who seems to appreciate her lively curiosity. Lavinia proves to be an apt pupil in both the study and the bedroom, glorying in the pleasures of the physical.

In 21st century Los Angeles, geneticist Julia is trying to identify people who can kill without remorse. Stunned to discover that she seems to possess the trait she is looking for, Julia is reassured of her emotions by her intense passion for her husband and her delight in her pregnancy.

In the past,

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 In 19th century Britain, Lavinia is married to an older man who seems to appreciate her lively curiosity. Lavinia proves to be an apt pupil in both the study and the bedroom, glorying in the pleasures of the physical.

In 21st century Los Angeles, geneticist Julia is trying to identify people who can kill without remorse. Stunned to discover that she seems to possess the trait she is looking for, Julia is reassured of her emotions by her intense passion for her husband and her delight in her pregnancy.

In the past, Lavinia’s desire for her husband grows, but his cools as he becomes fascinated with another. In the present, Julia’s love overwhelms her husband, who leaves her.

Lavinia and Julia feel the tortures of passion unspent. Cold logic tells them that the deaths of their tormentors will bring them peace. Separated by a hundred years, two Huntington women face the same decision. Their choices will echo far into the future.

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  • Forge
  • Paperback
  • May 2008
  • 432 Pages
  • 9780765320100

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About Tobsha Lerner

 Tobsha Learner is a renowned playwright and short story writer whose works have been performed and published throughout the world. She was Born and raised in London, England, where she trained to be a sculptor.

Praise

“A riveting page-turner.” —Publishers Weekly on The Witch of Cologne

“The kind of all-consuming novel that readers hate to see end.”
—Booklist
on The Witch of Cologne

“Deep and moving.” —Romantic Times BOOKreviews on The Witch of Cologne

“Like a tapestry, the setting is meticulously detailed [and] carefully woven. Learner has a rich historical palette to play with and uses it to create a plot that gains pace as it progresses. The novel will appeal to readers who delight in the worlds conjured in Anne Rice’s dark historical romances. Like Rice, Learner writes with a leaning toward eroticism.”
—Australian Bookseller & Publisher
on The Witch of Cologne

Discussion Questions

Learner draws an historical comparison between phrenology and genetics, Darwin and creationism, the onset of the American Civil War and the fall-out of contemporary American Foreign policy—do you think by raising such comparisons she is commenting on the nature of progress or suggesting history in some ways merely repeats itself?

Soul is very much a story about power. What are the greatest differences between Julia and Lavinia in terms of the types of power that they have, or lack, in the world—intellectual, familial, social, economic, professional, and maternal?

Learner’s characters talk frequently about nature vs. nurture, about genetic imperatives vs. free will and moral responsibility. Is Lavinia a moral person?

Why do you think that Julia is able to avoid killing Klaus—and therefore avoid either going to jail or losing her own life—while Lavinia is compelled to kill James? Do you think that Lavinia’s decision was the right one, either morally or in terms of her struggle for survival? Does Julia represent a more evolved version of her great-grandmother, or does she simply have more choices?

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder has a huge impact not only on combat soldiers but also their families and friends. The notion of genetically profiling men who would not suffer from it is morally complex—how does Learner address this issue?

Learner portrays Klaus as someone who has frequently failed to stand up for himself, yet when he leaves Julia, he does so in an aggressive and self-centered way. Is he actually a narcissist, or simply someone who took years to learn how to prioritize his own needs? Is he a modern-day cad? How does he compare with James, his parallel in Lavinia’s story?

What do you think of Julia’s decision, early on in the book, to accept the Defense Department contract? Is she ethical in her thinking about her work? Can you envision situations in which her super-soldiers could be essential to public safety or national security? How do you feel about her decisions at the book’s end?

Gabriel is an enigmatic character. Do you think that he loves Julia, or does he seduce her for professional gain? Given their age difference, what do you make of the fact that he genuinely seems to care about her well-being? How does this relate to his own up-bringing?

The Irish Famine was one of the great crimes perpetuated by an indifferent England—in what way were the English aristocracy implicated?

The ambassador for the Confederate States did indeed have an embassy in Mayfair and the Confederacy was active in campaigning for support in Britain. What economic hold did they have over the manufacturing industry in England?