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
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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?