Last Summer of the Camperdowns (Kelly) - Discussion Questions

Discussion Questions
1. The novel is set in Cape Cod during the summer of 1972. How does the physical setting and time period affect the story? How would the plot differ if the story was set in a different location at a different historical moment?

2. On numerous occasions throughout the novel, Riddle is compared to Greer. Are Riddle and Greer really as different as they appear? What qualities do they share?

3. As Michael reappears in the life of the Camperdowns, the relationship between Camp and Greer alters. Why does Michael change their dynamic, and what else could be at work between Camp and Greer?

4. How does Greer’s experience as an actress influence her daily behavior? Although Greer is the only actress by profession, what other characters are guilty of performing their lives? What initiates their needs to play out specific roles?

5. Describe Riddle’s relationship with Gula. How do you interpret Gula’s fictitious stories that continue to unfold? Can you relate to Riddle’s complicated emotions of perversion and seduction toward Gula?

6. Why do you think nineteen-year-old Harry has such an attachment to twelve-year-old Riddle? What is at the heart of their friendship? Do you think Harry will ever speak to Riddle again?

7. What explains Gula’s fascination with Riddle? Why do you think Gula gave Riddle the present at the end of the book?

8. Riddle’s reaction to finding Charlie’s body is noteworthy: “I felt such shame, such guilt, even as I was ashamed to feel shame, disgusted by my feelings of guilt.” Why do you think Riddle felt this way? What do her emotions reveal about her character?

9. In Charlie’s book of condolences, Camp writes, “I will see you in the morning.” What do you think this means?
Compare Michael and Camp; which man do you find more trustworthy? Whose account of the war do you believe? Who do you think Greer loved more?

10. One theme of the book is the power of secrets, and the end of the book capitalizes on the secret Riddle has kept throughout regarding Charlie’s death. Do you think this is the most consequential secret of the book? What other secrets cause grave consequences?

11. How does the first chapter, set in the present, frame the rest of the novel that is set in the past? When the novel returns to the present in the epilogue, how have your feelings for Riddle changed from the beginning of the book?
The book is narrated from Riddle’s point of view. How does her perspective influence the story? Do you trust her as a narrator? Why or why not?

12. Why do you think Riddle kept what she saw in the yellow barn a secret for so long? How was Gula able to manipulate Riddle to stay silent? What drove Riddle to finally reveal the truth?
(Questions issued by publisher.)

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