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About The Book

One of Redbook’s Best Books of 2016

“A heady cocktail of nostalgia, a seductive Frenchman, a passionate love triangle, and a mysterious disappearance.” —The Seattle Times

A smart, obsessive debut novel about a young woman studying abroad who becomes caught up in a seductive French world—and a complex web of love and lust.

When thirty-year-old Brooke Thompson unexpectedly runs into a man from her past, she’s plunged headlong into memories she’s long tried to forget about the year she spent in France following a disastrous affair with a professor.

As a newly arrived exchange student in the picturesque city of Nantes, young Brooke develops a deep and complicated friendship with Sophie, a fellow American and stunning blonde, whose golden girl façade hides a precarious emotional fragility. Sophie and Brooke soon become inseparable and find themselves intoxicated by their new surroundings—and each other.

But their lives are forever changed when they meet a sly, stylish French student, Veronique, and her impossibly sexy older cousin, Alex. The cousins draw Sophie and Brooke into an irresistible world of art, money, decadence, and ultimately, a disastrous love triangle that consumes them both. And of the two of them, only one will make it home.

Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for Losing the Light includes 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.

Topics & Questions for Discussion

1. “I’m more than willing to take an anthropological stance on the beautiful people.” (Pg. 3-4) Early in the novel, Brooke positions herself as an “anthropologist” among attractive people—a neutral observer. Do you agree with Brooke’s self-description? Why or why not?

2. One of the major themes throughout Losing the Light is the notion of belonging. What does it mean to belong? Using examples from the novel, discuss whether it seems like people naturally “belong” (in a certain crowd, country, lifestyle, etc.) or whether belonging is a matter of confidence or is somehow otherwise fostered. What are some moments in the book when Brooke feels she does or doesn’t belong?

3. Alex has a critical impression of the wealthy, glamorous people who surround him, and yet Brooke notes both in France and in New York that he is, in essence, one of them. Why do you think he regards his peers this way? In what ways do his views parallel or differ from Brooke’s opinions of rich, fashionable people?

4. As the novel goes on, Brooke becomes more aware of the socioeconomic difference between herself and Sophie. How are class differences depicted in Losing the Light? What is their significance?

5. What role does Brooke’s relationship with her mother play in the novel? How does this relationship influence Brooke, and what lessons does she learn (or fail to learn) from her mom?

6. Sophie responds defensively when Brooke suggests that her life is ideal or close to it. Do you think this tension between how Brooke views Sophie’s life in comparison to her own—and Sophie’s subsequent objections—reveals a lack of understanding on Brooke’s side, or Sophie’s? Do things come more easily to Sophie?

7. How do Brooke, Sophie, and Alex use lies and secrets to cultivate the image they want to project? Consider how Brooke’s affair with her professor is discussed, Sophie’s “disclosure” that she is a virgin, Alex’s latest photography project, or any other withheld or manipulated facts. When and why do these characters choose to reveal their secrets?

8. The trip to France in some ways marks the beginning of adulthood for Brooke and Sophie, giving them the opportunity to live away from their parents and invent themselves as the people they’d like to be. In what ways do we see them mature or develop over the course of the book? In what respects do they remain on the edge of adulthood?

9. Monsieur Boulu, the professor of translation, asserts that everything, even onomatopoeia, is understood through the specificity of languages—that language is “not just a way of speaking but a whole way of communicating with the world.” Do you see this idea elsewhere in the novel? If you speak a foreign language, can you think of any examples of how differences in language can change how you understand something?

10. The conclusion of Losing the Light leaves Sophie’s fate ambiguous. Discuss what you think happened to Sophie at the end of the novel. Do different possible endings change how you interpret Brooke, Sophie, or their relationship? If so, how?

11. What do you think would have happened if Brooke had taken the flight to France that Sophie sent her a ticket for? Would they have been able to mend their friendship? Would Sophie have continued lying to Brooke about aspects of her life? How might Brooke’s life down the line be different?

Enhance Your Book Club

1. Losing the Light is told from the perspective of Brooke, and there is often a sense (especially after Sophie’s emailed confession) that there is perhaps a very different story simultaneously taking place from Sophie’s perspective. As a group, choose a scene with Brooke and Sophie, and rewrite it through Sophie’s eyes. Share and discuss how you think the situation took place from Sophie’s point of view.

2. Imagine you are planning a study abroad trip. Where would you want to travel to, and why? If you have previously lived abroad, would you want to return to the same place, or somewhere new? What would you want to get out of living in a foreign country?

3. Add some extra flavor to your discussion of Losing the Light by bringing some French wines and perhaps some French cheese and macaroons to share with the group. To complete the evening, put on some Edith Piaf songs to play in the background.

4. The characters in this book have the kinds of intense relationships that come with being young. Did you ever have a friendship like Brooke and Sophie have? The kind that burns bright and flames out? Or a crush like the one Brooke has on Alex that consumes her thoughts? What memories did the book bring up for you?


About The Author

Photograph by Matthew Land

Andrea Dunlop is the author of We Came Here to Forget, She Regrets Nothing, Losing the Light, and Broken Bay. She lives with her husband in Seattle, Washington, where she works as a social media consultant.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Washington Square Press (February 23, 2016)
  • Length: 336 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781501109416

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Raves and Reviews

One of Redbook's Best Books of 2016

"Who doesn't fantasize about a sexy and passionate romance with a hot foreigner?"

– PopSugar

"A complicated friendship, a disastrous affair with a professor, and intoxicating relationships factor in making this an unforgettable trip."

– Buzzfeed

"A haunting story of betrayal within a beautiful portrait of youth."

– Kirkus Reviews

"Dunlop’s smart and suspenseful debut follows the lead of Katie Crouch’s Abroad (2014) and Jennifer duBois’ Cartwheel (2013), but delves more deeply into the repercussions beyond a shocking incident during a year abroad. Dunlop richly evokes the heady emotions of friendship, lust, and betrayal."

– Booklist

“Dunlop’s writing is effervescent, but wise…the story, which is as much about love, lust and longing as it is about the intricacies and potential pitfalls of close, obsessive friendship, also offers a truly lovely depiction of France.”

– Globe and Mail

"In her debut, Dunlop writes of a fizzy, decadent world, filled with the intense relationships that young love brings, whether that feeling is for a person or for a beautiful location."

– Library Journal

"Love triangles can haunt you forever. This gorgeously written debut novel centers around one woman being seduced by European high life while on a study abroad trip in France. It's an exotic escape and a literary escape at the same time."

– Redbook

"The story of a young girl studying abroad in France who gets sucked into a world of love and lust. This unraveling tale is absolutely haunting."

– SheKnows

"Good wine, dark chocolate, a French love triangle, and the perfect best friend- at first- are only a handful of the decadences awaiting you in Losing the Light- not to mention the shocking twist that kept this succulent debut lingering long after the final page."

– Miranda Beverly-Whittemore, New York Times bestselling author of Bittersweet

"Andrea Dunlop's captivating debut ardently delivers the thrill and joy and exquisite pain of being young and in love: with a friend, with a lover, with a country, with a life, with the future. I felt myself twenty and in France with nothing but heady enchantment before me. Losing the Light is utterly transporting."

– Laurie Frankel, The Atlas of Love

"It's got Gainsbourg's ‘Sea, Sex, and Sun’ plus red wine and betrayal—a compulsively readable debut about forever friendships that can't last."

– Courtney Maum, bestselling author of I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You

"Losing the Light is a smart, sexy, thrilling novel. Andrea Dunlop's debut brilliantly captures the tension and sharp edges of female friendships, infatuation, and life abroad. You will feel transported to France, as if you yourself are speaking French and drinking a little too much wine with your best friend and a dangerously handsome man."

– Taylor Jenkins Reid, Author of Maybe in Another Life

"There are so many coming-of-age novels in the world about the young, innocent girl making her way in the world. And yet, Losing the Light is really something special. Andrea Dunlop has a keen sense of what a modern woman on the cusp of her twenties might truly desire, fear, and be tempted by. Her characters are unapologetic and troublesome, yet intensely likable. On top of that, she sets the book in a French town and feeds you wine and men the whole way through. Oh, and there’s a murder mystery. Seduced yet? You should be. This is a lovely debut."

– Katie Crouch, New York Times bestselling author of Girls in Trucks and Abroad

“A heady cocktail of nostalgia, a seductive Frenchman, a passionate love triangle, a mysterious disappearance: Seattle author Andrea Dunlop weaves an intriguing story about 30-year-old Brooke, now newly engaged,and her recollections of student days a decade earlier in France with her bubbly, blond buddy Sophie...Losing the Light is a love letter to France — the cafes, the language, the 'fierce elegance' of Parisiennes, the sun-drenched beauty of Cap Ferrat. Dunlop brilliantly recreates the tempestuous, 'anything is possible' whirlwind of emotions that accompany Brooke’s coming of age, with the dizzying heights and depths of feeling...A thoughtful, assured debut.”

– The Seattle Times

"In Losing the Light, Andrea Dunlop takes readers on an intense, smart, sexy adventure, giving major The Talented Mr. Ripley vibes.”

– Working Mother

“This delicious literary indulgence is consuming and addictive…the perfect partner for every beach day this summer.”

– Sunset Magazine

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