The Thornfield Hall Literary Quiz: What Were We Thinking of?

Avid bloggers and blog readers are all a bit mad when it comes to reading . Some commit to one book at a time, like their pre-electronic ancestors, while others switch from volume to volume, like the restless ex-urban Booktubers planning the Month of Mrs. Gaskell as a distraction from lockdown claustrophobia.

Interrupted by e-mail ads for bookstores and hourly updates on news that raises my blood pressure, I often have two or three books going, as a kind of reaction to electronic disturbance. My concentration is not dead: I have a tendency to get obsessed with a single book. For years I have been haunted by Henry James’s masterpiece The Golden Bowl. The sentence rhythms are hypnotic, and the characters have climbed out of a hyperrealistic Kent Bellows painting. And then there’s my personal reaction: I hate seeing bitchy Charlotte betray her best friend Maggie by committing adultery with Maggie’s husband, Prince Amerigo–especially after Charlotte marries Maggie’s rich father. This foursome is obsessed with collecting art and antiques, and, we must admit, people as well. And it all gets rather incestuous. There is a kind of calculated salvation at the end–and that’s the best we can hope for in a Henry James novel.

BUT THE QUIZ WILL NOT BE ABOUT HENRY JAMES. Thank God, you will say. I have moved on to a novel that is much shorter, if equally brilliant in a completely different style, and involves travel. Since I am very fond of this author and this particular book, I have made a literary quiz to share my enthusiasm. Can you guess the author and the title of the book? You do want to put the Thornfield Hall Literary Prize on your résumé, don’t you?

Start by reading the following passage. It may give you some clue.


Answer the questions to find clues to the identification of the writer and the title of the book I’m thinking of. Good luck!

  1. Liza Minnelli played the outrageous heroine of the popular musical film ______ based on a book by this twentieth-century English author ______.
  2. A gay man was the hero of another movie based on a novel by this author ______ .
  3. The author was an activist for (a) the suffrage movement, (b) gay rights, (c) Civil Rights, (d) the National Rifle Association
  4. This pre-war glam city ______ features in more than one of his/her books.
  5. There are four narrators, all named ____, in the novel I am thinking of. (It is one of his/her later novels.)
  6. The four narrators of this novel spend time in Bremen and Berlin, the Greek Islands, London, and California.
  7. What is the novel? It is referred to in 5 and 6. And who is the author?


8 thoughts on “The Thornfield Hall Literary Quiz: What Were We Thinking of?”

  1. By the way, I greatly enjoyed your quiz. What fun! The author was obvious of course (Sally Bowles for heaven’s sake, is giving it away), but WHICH BOOK by Isherwood took me half an hour to figure out. He’s written so much. But when I lit on Down There on a Visit and read the Amazon excerpt I was intensely riveted by everything about it, an instant ardent fan, and have ordered my own copy, for myself and my son to read. So thank you for your circuitous, mysterious, intensely enjoyable way of pointing us to a divine book that we’d certainly have never read otherwise! I’ve read some Isherwood in the past, but would never have embarked on this novel – or known how engaging and good it is. If I’d seen it in an ordinary blog review, I’d just have skipped past. Funny how things work…

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed the quiz. I knew finding the title would be a bit tricky, but I did leave a FEW clues. Definitely this would have been impossible without the internet or at least a very good bookstore. You would have had to go to the Strand or Foyles.

      Isherwood is great! I’d forgotten him until I was looking at my “i” shelves the other day.

      1. He IS great, isn’t he! Never realized it so fully before as when reading the preview of this book. It will arrive in a few days, and I am grateful to you for bringing it to my attention. My son will read it too. Oddly, Isherwood lived in Santa Monica for many years, and we were here all that time, but never encountered him. Too bad! By the way, I am delighted to be able to put the Thornfield Hall Literary Prize on my resume. Retired: 2015. Winner Thornfield Hall Literary Prize: 2021…

        1. I love the Berlin Stories, and found Down There on a Visit by chance the other day. In other words, I bought it years ago and had never taken it off the bookshelf! I am simply amazed by how entertaining , witty, astute, and well-written it is. Too bad you didn’t meet Isherwood in Santa Monica, but the literary Prize is all yours! 🙂

  2. I loved the quiz, although I assumed, alas, that it was another title by Isherwood. It makes me want to devise a Louis MacNeice quiz. Thank you for the amusement and edification you provide.

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