Social Creature (Burton)

Social Creature 
Sara Isabella Burton, 2018
Knopf Doubleday
288 pp.

 A dark, propulsive and addictive debut thriller, splashed with all the glitz and glitter of New York City.

They go through both bottles of champagne right there on the High Line, with nothing but the stars over them. They drink and Lavinia tells Louise about all the places they will go together, when they finish their stories, when they are both great writers-to Paris and to Rome and to Trieste...

Lavinia will never go. She is going to die soon.

Louise has nothing. Lavinia has everything. After a chance encounter, the two spiral into an intimate, intense, and possibly toxic friendship. A Talented Mr. Ripley for the digital age, this seductive story takes a classic tale of obsession and makes it irresistibly new. (From the publisher.)

Author Bio
Birth—ca. 1990-1991
Where—New York, New York, USA
Education—Ph.D., Oxford University
Awards—Shiva Naipaul Memorial Prize (Travel)
Currently—lives in New York City, USA, and in Tiblisi, Georgia

Tara Isabella Burton is a writer of fiction and non-fiction. Winner of the Shiva Naipaul Memorial Prize for Travel Writing, she completed her doctorate in 19th century French literature and theology at the University of Oxford and is a prodigious travel writer, short story writer and essayist for National Geographic, The Wall Street Journal, The Economist’s 1843 and more.

She currently works for Vox as their Religion Correspondent, lives in New York, and divides her time between the Upper East Side and Tbilisi, Georgia (the country). (From the publisher.)

Book Reviews
Diabolical.… A wicked original with echoes of the greats (Patricia Highsmith, Gillian Flynn).
Janet Maslin - New York Times

[A] formidable burlesque…sharp as a shard of broken mirror.… Social Creature is at its strongest… when it's focusing on Louise's calculations as she's backdating Facebook posts to cover her tracks and stealing the affections of Lavinia's ex-boyfriend. Its superb dialogue and cutting sense of humor help it glide irresistibly past its peculiar conflicted unrealities.
Charles Finch - New York Times Book Review

(Starred review) [A] mousy girl–wild girl dynamic on display in Burton’s fiendishly clever debut.… This devious, satisfying novel perfectly captures a very narrow slice of the Manhattan demimonde.
Publishers Weekly

New York City, where aspiring writers come to make it big… and obsession looms, is the setting for this debut psychological thriller.… When the shocking plot twist arrives, readers will be glued to this contemporary take on Patricia Highsmith's The Talented Mr. Ripley. —David Miller, Farmville P.L., NC
Library Journal

This fast-paced, stylish…debut…will definitvely ensnare readers. Diabolically playing on what we think we know about others and what we reveal about ourselves in the social-media age, it will give readers the creeps, too.

(Starred review) Dark, stylish.… [E]very individual is both victim and villain… creating conflict that propels the book toward its shocking yet inevitale conclusion.… [A] thrilling and provocative crime novel, a devastating exploration of female insecurity, and …society's obsession with social media.
Kirkus Reviews

Discussion Questions
We'll add publisher questions if and when they're available. In the meantime, use our generic mystery questions to help start a discussion for SOCIAL CONTRACT… then take off on your own:

Mystery / Crime / Suspense Thrillers


1. Talk about the characters, both good and bad. Describe their personalities and motivations. Are they fully developed and emotionally complex? Or are they flat, one-dimensional heroes and villains?

2. What do you know...and when do you know it? At what point in the book do you begin to piece together what happened?

3. Good crime writers embed hidden clues in plain sight, slipping them in casually, almost in passing. Did you pick them out, or were you...clueless? Once you've finished the book, go back to locate the clues hidden in plain sight. How skillful was the author in burying them?

4. Good crime writers also tease us with red-herrings—false clues—to purposely lead readers astray? Does your author try to throw you off track? If so, were you tripped up?

5. Talk about the twists & turns—those surprising plot developments that throw everything you think you've figured out into disarray.

  1. Do they enhance the story, add complexity, and build suspense?
  2. Are they plausible or implausible?
  3. Do they feel forced and gratuitous—inserted merely to extend the story?

6. Does the author ratchet up the suspense? Did you find yourself anxious—quickly turning pages to learn what happened? A what point does the suspense start to build? Where does it climax...then perhaps start rising again?

7. A good ending is essential in any mystery or crime thriller: it should ease up on tension, answer questions, and tidy up loose ends. Does the ending accomplish those goals?

  1. Is the conclusion probable or believable?
  2. Is it organic, growing out of clues previously laid out by the author (see Question 3)?
  3. Or does the ending come out of the blue, feeling forced or tacked-on?
  4. Perhaps it's too predictable.
  5. Can you envision a different or better ending?

8. Are there certain passages in the book—ideas, descriptions, or dialogue—that you found interesting or revealing...or that somehow struck you? What lines, if any, made you stop and think?

9. Overall, does the book satisfy? Does it live up to the standards of a good crime story or suspense thriller? Why or why not?

(Generic Mystery Questions by LitLovers. Please feel free to use them, online or off, with attribution. Thanks.)

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