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Reading Group Guide A Tidy Ending
Joanna Cannon This reading group guide for A Tidy Ending 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. Introduction
Linda lives a quiet (if unfulfilling) life with her husband, Terry, in a peaceful town—until young women start to go missing. Rumors spread of a serial killer in their midst, and both Linda and her mother, who lives nearby, are reminded of the dark past they left behind in Wales many years ago. . . .
Meanwhile, Terry has been keeping odd hours at work, and his tiresome qualities become more and more grating to Linda. She flips through the glossy catalogs that arrive in the mail for the house’s previous tenant, Rebecca Finch, and imagines that woman’s glamorous lifestyle. If only Linda could become friends with this Rebecca, she’d stop worrying so much about what Terry might be up to.
A sinister but darkly funny tale full of shocking twists, A Tidy Ending
asks whether the grass is really greener and if we can ever really know even those closest to us.Topics and Questions for Discussion
1. Discuss the character of Linda—what are her personality traits, eccentricities, and obsessions? What did you think of her as a narrator?
2. After perusing the glossy catalogs addressed to Rebecca Finch, Linda begins imagining herself into a different sort of life—a better, more glamorous one like she imagines Rebecca must have. To what extent is this kind of daydreaming harmless—or not? When did you first think Linda had taken it too far? Have you ever experienced this kind of envy?
3. What do we know about the character of Terry? How well does Linda really know him? Did you find him suspicious?
4. Two mysteries unfold simultaneously in the book: the identity of the serial killer, and the truth about Linda’s father. What do we learn about him from Linda’s narration, and what can we guess from context? How does Linda feel about her father, and why?
5. Describe Linda’s relationship with her mother. Why do you think they have stuck together so closely over the years? What was young Linda’s relationship with her father like in comparison?
6. In chapter nine, Linda tells the reader: “whenever you try to run away from your problems, your problems join you for the ride” (page 77). Is this true for these characters?
7. Discuss the presentation of social media in the book. How does it make the characters feel, and how does it impact the events of the story? How does this compare to your own experiences with social media?
8. Compare Linda’s relationship with Rebecca to Rebecca’s relationship with Linda. How do they treat each other? Take advantage of each other? Why?
9. What did you think of the ending? Were you left with unanswered questions, or did you find it “tidy”? During one of the “Now” sections, Dr. Richard asks Linda, “you must have suspected what was going on? . . . When was the point where you put two and two together?” (page 256). Was there a moment earlier in the book where you started to guess what was happening?
10. When did you figure out where the “Now” was taking place? How did what you read in these scenes influence what you thought would happen in the central timeline? Did your understanding of what these scenes were about change as you read on?
11. There are lots of twists, turns, secrets, and small mysteries revealed over the course of the book. Which one, besides the ending, took you most by surprise?
12. Which character(s) in the book did you find most sympathetic? Did your opinion of them change over the course of the novel? Enhance Your Book Club
1. Watch the film Ingrid Goes West
(2017), which is about a woman who stalks a social media influencer in order to befriend her. Discuss the parallels between Linda and the film’s title character.
2. Have a taste test of Jaffa Cakes—the chocolate orange snack that is a favorite of Linda’s—along with other British biscuits like McVitie’s Milk Chocolate Digestives and Jammie Dodgers.
3. Read The Trouble with Goats and Sheep
, Joanna Cannon’s novel set in 1976 about two ten-year-old sleuths investigating the mysterious disappearance of a neighbor in their small town. How does that novel compare to A Tidy Ending