The Lying Tongue

The Lying Tongue

Fresh from finishing university in England, Adam Woods arrives in Venice to begin a new chapter in his life. He soon secures employment as the personal assistant of Gordon Crace -- a famous expatriate novelist who makes his home in a dank and crumbling palazzo, surrounded by fabulous works of art, piles of unanswered correspondence and the memories of his former literary glory.

Before long Adam becomes indispensable to the feeble Crace, and he finds himself at once drawn to and repelled by his elderly employer's brilliant mind and eccentric habits. As Adam comes to learn more about the scandal that brought Crace to Venice years ago, he realizes he has stumbled upon the raw material that could launch his own literary career and makes a bold decision: He will secretly write the famous author's biography. But outsmarting Crace is easier said than done, and the two soon find themselves locked in a bitter contest over the right to determine how the story of Crace's life will end. Against the haunting backdrop of the serene city, the two men engage in a ruthless game of cat and mouse that builds to a breathtaking and unexpected conclusion.
  • Washington Square Press | 
  • 336 pages | 
  • ISBN 9780743293983 | 
  • March 2008
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Reading Group Guide

Questions and Topics for Discussion
1. The epigraph to the book reads, "This is not the book I wanted to write. This is not how it was supposed to be at all." What does this mean? Who is the speaker?
2. Is Adam Woods a reliable narrator? Do you trust him as the storyteller? Why or why not? What are examples of where he builds trust or breaks it? How would the story be different if it was written from the point of view of Gordon Crace or even an outsider?
3. The novel begins, "Wherever I went I saw a question mark at the heart of the city." This form of a question mark appears several other times throughout the book. What does this question mark represent? Does it represent something different for Adam than it does for the reader?
4. What are Adam's first impressions of Gordon Crace? Is Crace what he expected? Is he what you expected? Gordon Crace's house is poorly kept and covered in grime and dust. What does this reveal about him? What about his elaborate art collection? How does Crace's dingy residence clash with Adam's obsessive neat streak?
5. Discuss Winterborne Abbey and its relationship to Crace. Why does he have such a difficult time speaking about it?
6. Describe and discuss Adam's interpretation of Crace's frame of mind throughout the novel. Does his mental state change? If so, what are the indicators? When and how does it happen?
7. How does your view of Adam change throughout the novel? Out of the many things that he does, what is his w see more

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About the Author

Andrew Wilson
Photograph © Johnny Ring

Andrew Wilson

Andrew Wilson is an award-winning journalist and author. His work has appeared in a wide variety of publications including the Guardian, the Washington Post, the Sunday Times, and the Smithsonian Magazine. He is the author of four acclaimed biographies, a book about the survivors of the Titanic, and the novels, The Lying Tongue, A Talent for Murder, A Different Kind of Evil, Death in a Desert Land.