Reading Group Guide
This reading group guide for I Remember You by Harriet Evans includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas 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.
Tess Tennant moves from London to the sleepy picture-perfect town of Langford, where she grew up, to teach Classical Civilization at illustrious Langford College. She finds a cottage to share with her new friend Francesca, a burnt-out city lawyer. Around the corner is her childhood best friend, Adam, whom she’s always loved like a brother. Tess settles into her new rural lifestyle, and Francesca and Adam begin a tumultuous relationship.
But when Tess goes to London with Adam for a big night out, the evening turns into an emotional nightmare. Heartbroken, Tess takes her class on a trip to Rome. The Eternal City in May is beautiful, and soon Tess is swept off her feet by Peter, a charming American newspaper reporter who takes her around the city for a magical week. She forgets the complicated problems waiting for her at home until atragedy occurs and her past and present collide. When she returns to Langford, Tess struggles to return to her former life while maintaining contact with Peter. Adam leaves town, and Tess wonders if their friendship can ever be the same. How do they fit into each other’s lives now? And what is the secret of his mysterious past?
Questions and Topics for Discussion
1. Discuss the title in the context of the story. It’s taken from the song “I Remember You,” lyrics by Johnny Mercer, and a verse is the epigraph. Why do you think this title was chosen?
2. Early in the story, Tess’s and Adam’s lives are referred to as “set in stone long before they were born” (page 6). Do you agree with this statement? Do you believe the future is preordained?
3. How does Rome, both ancient and present day, inform the novel? With special reference to the character of Adam, discuss the Roman notion of duty and honor as it applies to his conflict with the water meadows, compared to Roman profligacy and bad behavior.
4. Does Diana have a good point when she says that development might save Langford instead of ruin it (page 94)? Or should the small community and the water meadows be preserved at all costs? What do you think about Peter’s statement that “tourists kill a city” (page 161)? Do you agree with Adam’s decision? What would you have chosen to do in his place?
5. Why does Tess stop taking care of her appearance after moving to Langford? What makes her start paying attention to her looks again?
6. Were you surprised when you finally got a glimpse into Tess and Adam’s past? Had you suspected a past trauma of that magnitude?
7. Discuss the quote from E. M. Forster’s A Room with a View that introduces Part Two, on page 139, in the context of the novel: “I’m only thinking of my pet theory about Miss Honeychurch. Does it seem reasonable that she should play so wonderfully, and live so quietly? I suspect that one day she will be wonderful in both. The water-tight compartments in her will break down, and music and life will mingle. Then we shall have her heroically good, heroically bad—too heroic, perhaps, to be good or bad.” Why do you think the author chose this passage?
8. Why does Lenora Mortmain come on the trip to Rome? What do you think her motivations are?
9. Lenora remarks several times that she and Tess are alike. Presumably, neither of them know of their similar histories. What does Lenora see of herself in Tess?
10. Why is everyone around them able to see that Tess and Adam should be together, but they are unable or unwilling to recognize this? They’ve been told they should be a couple their entire lives. Why does it take having other lovers, Peter and Francesca, for them to finally see each other in a different light? Or do you think they both had feelings for each other all along but were simply too scared to admit it?
Enhance Your Book Club
1. Have an Italian feast like the one the group enjoys at the Roman trattoria in Chapter 17. Try your hand at cooking dishes such as stuffed zucchini flowers; grilled vegetables; bruschetta with borlotti beans; prosciutto; and lamb or veal with arugula, potatoes, and white beans. Or visit a local Italian restaurant and order your favorites.
2. When she needs guidance, Tess talks to her picture of Jane Austen. Which author or literary heroine would be your confidante and adviser, and why? Tess also says she would most like to be like Elizabeth Bennet in a difficult situation. Whose characteristics would you choose?
3. Are you a city person or a country person? Would you choose to live in London or Langford? Why?