(Download the discussion questions as a PDF file.) 1. Love and Treasure is a novel that illuminates the shifting nature of identity. In the beginning of the novel, Jack Wiseman is described as a New York Jew whose father’s parents are of “authentic German Jewish stock,” (18) yet he feels a struggle to connect with both his American soldiers and the European Jews he encounters. How does Jack’s definition of himself change over the course of the novel? How do Jack’s fellow soldiers view him? The Hungarian civilians? What does this say about the how cultural heritage is assigned or interpreted?
2. On page 12, Jack admits that for many years the “contents of the pouch had been kind of an obsession” to him. In what ways does his granddaughter internalize this obsession and make it her own? What drives Natalie’s quest? Did Jack send her on this mission out of duty to the owner, or to renew the “glimmer of interest” in his granddaughter that had been destroyed by her divorce? Both?
3. When Jack first meets Ilona, he declares that she is all “wire and sparks” (page 29). How does her presence help Jack to better understand his identity as a Jew? As an American? How does she challenge his views about the war or its aftermath?
4. Throughout the novel, Jack is caught up between his duty to country (in maintaining his position of watching over the train) and his duty to the people of Hungary (in trying to ensure that the goods are returned to their rightful owners). How do these two missions conflict with one another?
5. Chart Jack’s view of the military over the course of the novel, taking into account his interactions with his fellow American soldiers. Does he relate to any of the soldiers? If so, who? Discuss his conversation with Lieutenant Hoyle at the bar after his breakup with Ilona. How did you interpret the violence at the end of this encounter?
6. Jack’s encounters with Yuval give him a more fully realized understanding of the political situation facing the Jews of Europe. What is Jack’s mindset going into the trip of smuggling the refugees? What are his feelings towards the group’s goal by the end of the mission? How does this encounter challenge his understanding of nationalism?
7. Ilona and Natalie are both described to physically resemble one another, both having fiery red hair. Is the author’s choice to have the two women share this trait purposeful? What other characteristics, if any, do the two women share?
8. On page 139, Natalie struggles to admit to Amitai that the pendant is stolen, instead saying her grandfather “found” it during the occupation. Why does she stumble over these words? What does this this hesitation say about the definition of discovery? Of ownership? How are these problems echoed throughout the novel? How is it reflected in the world of stolen paintings that Amitai deals in?
9. Compare and contrast the failed marriages of Amitai and Natalie. How do their failed marriages prepare them for meeting one another? Discuss the symbolism of Natalie wearing the pendant to her wedding to David.
10. Why is Amitai hesitant to share his military past with Natalie? What other “sins of omission” occur throughout the novel? (156)
11. Amitai is Israeli but he craves “the anonymity of the immigrant, to be a man with a vague accent in a city of vague accents” (176). How does this desire for erasure contrast with Natalie’s desire to understand her cultural heritage? How do their respective homelands encourage or complicate those desires?
12. When Natalie Stein becomes Natalie Kennedy, she meaningfully disrupts the established script for her behavior. What does this say about the fluidity of identity? How does this transgression embolden her?
13. On page 221, the pendant is returned to as close to its rightful heir as possible. What was your reaction to Dalia’s request to get the necklace appraised? What does her indifference to the physical object say about the dilution of history over time? Of personal connection to the Holocaust? To kin?
14. On pages 224-225, Natalie and Amitai fill out Page of Testimony for Komlos, Gizella Weisz, and Nina Einhorn. What is the significance of this act?
15. The events of Section Three are narrated from the perspective of a Freudian analyst, Dr. Zobel. Why do you think the author to choose to include this point of view? Is he reliable as a narrator? What textual evidence exists to challenge his objectivity? What does his position assert about validity of historical retelling?
16. Gizella and Nina are introduced as strong-willed women who are ahead their time: Nina dreams of medical school, and Gizella is active in radical politics. What challenges do these early feminists face, both from their countrymen and from their families? Why do you think Zobel seeks them out years later?
17. Stealing occurs throughout the novel: Jack pockets the pendant; the American soldiers freely “shop” from the gold train; Natalie lifts the painting; Amitai deals in the world of stolen paintings. How do the motivations for these acts differ? Who is morally “right” in their actions? What does the novel as a whole assert about ownership?
18. Love and Treasure is a novel that weaves together intricate plotlines amongst stunning character portraits, bringing to life a historical event with fictitious details. Yet as the history unravels, gaps emerge and often destabilize a clear narrative from developing. What does this assert about memory, both collective and personal? About how history is interpreted or reinterpreted over time?