The Playdate

A Novel

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About The Book

TAKE NOTHING FOR GRANTED. . . .

In a quiet London suburb, a group of mothers relies on each other for friendship, favors, and gossip. But some of them shouldn’t be trusted, and others have dark secrets.

When Callie moved into her new neighborhood, she thought it would be easy to fit in. The other parents have been strangely hostile, though, and her frail daughter Rae is finding it impossible to make friends. Suzy, with her rich husband and her three energetic children, has been the only one to reach out, although their friendship has recently felt inexplicably strained. Now the police have suggested that someone dangerous may be living in their neighborhood, and the atmosphere feels even more toxic. Then there’s the matter of Callie’s ex-husband, and the shocking truth behind their divorce . . . a truth that she would do anything to hide.

Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for The Playdate 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

For the past few years, Suzy has been the only one in her to reach out to her neighbor, Callie—a single, struggling mother caring for her sickly daughter. Although Suzy lives a seemingly charmed life across the street—with a successful husband, a lovely house, and three children—the two women become fast friends and confidantes. When Callie decides to return to work, it precipitates a series of bizarre and tragic events that reveal the dark secrets of a peaceful London neighborhood and the true identities of the strangers we think of as friends.

Topics & Questions for Discussion

1. The novel begins with Callie and Suzy at a pond “far from the company of men” (page 2). Considering how the story ends, in what ways is this opening scene ironic? Do you think the friendship between Callie and Suzy was a true friendship? Why or why not?

2. “‘Yes. . . . we’re going to be happy here,’ Allen said, nodding his head. It sounded like an order [Debs] thought.” (page 27) Discuss how relationships are described in The Playdate in regard to this quote. Are any of the couples happy? Do you think any of the couples are in love?

3. What were your initial reactions to Debs? How would you describe her character? Do you like her? Why is Debs so concerned with noise? Did your feelings for her change over the course of the novel?

4. What motivates Callie, Suzy, and Debs in their choices? What are they all ultimately looking for?

5. On page 125 Callie notices women watching her walk to lunch with her boss and a famous client: “But I realize that they see me . . . as someone who belongs here.” In what way does belonging—or not belonging—play a role throughout the novel? Does Callie see herself as an insider or outsider at her job? As a mother? As a friend? Do you think any other characters from The Playdate could be classified as “outsiders”?

6. The novel alternates between Suzy’s, Debs’s, and Callie’s point of view. How did the shift in narrative affect your reading of The Playdate? Did it help create suspense? Did it make you question the characters’ reliability or true intentions?

7. Revisit the scene when Debs realizes it is Suzy who has been calling her house repeatedly (pages 195–198). Did you believe Debs as a narrator during this scene?

Why would Suzy want to frighten Debs?

8. Do you think there is a hero or heroine in this novel? A villain? Why or why not?

9. Discuss the significance of the title. Why is a playdate so important to Callie? What does it symbolize to her? Why is Suzy so determined to keep Callie from making other friends?

10. On page 262, Suzy remembers the moment when her mother abandoned her with an aunt, a “monster” (page 262). Do you understand Suzy better, or sympathize with her, after having learned about her childhood? Do you forgive her for her actions?

11. Discuss the moment on page 274 when Rae’s real father is revealed. Were you surprised? Why do you think Callie continues her relationship with Jez? Why do you think Tom chooses to stay, despite knowing that Rae is not his biological daughter?

12. Why is Jez so popular with the women in The Playdate? Do you think that he truly loves any of them? Why or why not?

13. “Can you have an end to something that had no beginning?”(page 280). In what ways does Callie’s story have “no beginning?” Do you think her story has an end? Is it a happy one?

14. By the end of the novel, all of the characters find their voices and speak their minds. What causes Callie to find the courage to face the truth? What allows Debs to overcome her anxiety? Do you think that Callie and Debs will ever be able to forgive Suzy? Why or why not?

Enhance Your Book Club

1. The Playdate discusses the realities of contemporary life—managing children, a job, a love life, friendships, and finances. Discuss with your book club the ways in which you handle day-to- day stress. Like Callie, do you rely on friends for help? How do you know who can be trusted with your children? Swap stories, Web sites, and advice columns with your book club. Do you relate to Callie’s situation?

2. Sound is discussed frequently throughout The Playdate. Callie works as a sound producer, Debs is terrified by strange sounds, and the sound of Rae’s breathing is constantly being monitored. Have everyone in your book club be silent for two minutes and listen to the sounds around you. Afterward, discuss what you heard with your book club. Did everyone hear the same thing? How did the sounds differ from one person to the next? Why do you think sound—or the lack of sound—is so important for Callie in particular?

3. The Playdate takes place in a London neighborhood. Consider serving what the British refer to as the “full English” at your book club discussion. This breakfast tradition is also known as an “Ulster fry,” a “fry up,” and a “full monty”—depending on where it is served—but generally includes bacon, eggs, sausage, baked beans, grilled tomato and mushrooms, toast with marmalade, and of course, tea. For recipe suggestions and ideas, visit www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/775644/allday-breakfast or www.en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Cookbook:English_Breakfast.

 

 

About The Author

Photograph by Steve Millar

Louise Millar began her journalism career in various music and film magazines and spent seven years at Marie Claire as senior editor and contributing editor. She has written for Mojo, Marie Claire, Red, Psychologies, The Independent, Glamour, and The Guardian, among others. She lives in London with her husband and daughters.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Atria/Emily Bestler Books (July 3, 2012)
  • Length: 432 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781451656695

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Raves and Reviews

“British author Millar’s engrossing debut offers an unsettling, realistic view of friendships, gossip, and loneliness . . . What starts as a quiet story about neighbors soon builds into a gripping psychological thriller.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Millar’s well-drawn characters and impeccably structured plot instantly grab the reader and may leave parents wondering who to trust with their children. A supremely accomplished debut thriller by a writer to watch.”—Booklist (starred review)

“A disturbing psychological thriller that probes the insular lives of social misfits in a London suburb.”—New York Times Book Review

“A must-read that will tap into every mother's primal fears.”—Sophie Hannah

“Like the best thrillers, it is quietly creepy and expertly crafted. Add it to your book club reading list now.”—Stylist Magazine

“Taut, page-turning and surprising.”—Cleveland Plain Dealer

“A captivating psychological thriller . . . The writing is taut, the action slow building, the emotions intense, and the climax explosive, making it a must read for all.”—Lori’s Reading Corner

“Millar’s gripping thriller has anxious moms in its crosshairs.”—People

The Playdate is an intriguing psychological thriller that starts as a treatise on how well even best friends and neighbors truly know each other before turning into a taut chiller . . . Readers will appreciate Louise Miller’s thought-provoking drama as the masks slowly come off.”—The Mystery Gazette

“Suspenseful . . . I couldn't put the book down till I had gotten to the end.”

– Book Dilettante

“Terrifying. This is a book not to be missed.”

– A Bookish Librarian

“This engrossing debut novel of psychological suspense builds on the primal fear all parents have of trusting relative strangers to care for their children.”

– Stop, You’re Killing Me!

The Playdate felt like Gone Girl . . . They both built great suspense from intimate relationships, and had plenty of twists and turns.”

– Reading is My Superpower

“Intense.”

– Steph the Bookworm

“A dark, edgy story of suburban paranoia and manipulation. [Millar] takes her characters seriously, considering their struggles from moral, ethical, and humanistic perspectives.”

– Curledup.com

“Sinister, yet beautifully written and very real, The Playdate is a modern Gothic novel with echoes of du Maurier. You will slip into the lives of its London cast but your allegiances will shift throughout. Louise Millar plots her story so skillfully, you will distrust the characters to the point where you cannot even trust yourself. But you will read to the end, madly. And when you put this book down, you'll wish there were more.”

– Ann Bauer, author of The Forever Marriage

“Louise Millar's novel sucks the reader in like quicksand to the surprising ended. I did not want to miss a page!”

– Lee Woodruff, New York Times bestselling author of Those We Love Most

The Playdate is a leap above most suburban thrillers. Louise Millar tugs you in with smart writing and a sneaky plot before delivering the best kind of twist —the one that drives you like a demon to the finish line. So go ahead, read all night. The Playdate is worth the hangover.”

– Julia Heaberlin, author of Playing Dead

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