The Au Pair (Rous)

The Au Pair
Emma Rous, 2019
Penguin Publishing
384 pp.

Seraphine Mayes and her twin brother, Danny, were born in the middle of summer at their family's estate on the Norfolk coast.

Within hours of their birth, their mother threw herself from the cliffs, the au pair fled, and the village thrilled with whispers of dark cloaks, changelings, and the aloof couple who drew a young nanny into their inner circle.

Now an adult, Seraphine mourns the recent death of her father.

While going through his belongings, she uncovers a family photograph that raises dangerous questions. It was taken on the day the twins were born, and in the photo, their mother, surrounded by her husband and her young son, is smiling serenely and holding just one baby.

Who is the child, and what really happened that day? (From the publisher.)

Author Bio
Emma Rous grew up in England, Indonesia, Kuwait, Portugal and Fiji, and from a young age she had two ambitions: to write stories, and to look after animals. She studied veterinary medicine and zoology at the University of Cambridge, and worked as a small animal veterinarian for eighteen years before starting to write fiction.

Emma lives near Cambridge in England with her husband and three sons, and she now writes full time.
The Au Pair was published in 2019.
(From Amazon.)

Book Reviews
This is one hell of a ride.
New York Post

[An] atmospheric if muddled first novel….  Rous ably interweaves accounts from dual narrators, Seraphine and Laura, to fan the suspense, but her plot-driven page-turner eventually founders after a few too many fantastic turns.
Publishers Weekly

A splendid read that will be best enjoyed with a book club or a buddy, as you’ll be itching to digest the tale’s twists with someone else, especially when you reach the jaw-drop­ping climax.”

As delicious and spellbinding as a soap opera, complete with the dramatic moments and outrageous twists. A promising first novel from Rous, The Au Pair is an absolutely absorbing and scandalous page-turner.

An unfamiliar photo causes a British woman to question her identity and investigate long-hidden family secrets in this debut thriller. …The ambiance of Summerbourne and the family that inhabits it… adds [a] gothic touch…. A modern gothic suspense novel done right.
Kirkus Reviews

Discussion Questions
1. What were your feelings about Summerbourne as the setting for this story? Did you empathize with Seraphine’s attachment to the house, or are you more like Danny as far as bricks and mortar are concerned?

2. Seraphine tells us early on she’s "never felt much need for friendships." Do you think this might have been influenced by her early childhood experiences? Do you think her attitude might have changed at all by the end of the book?

3. Laura says to Alex, "We all did bad things, Alex. You, me, Ruth, Dominic. Just because we haven’t been arrested like Vera doesn’t mean we got away with it." Do you think all four of them carry an equal amount of blame for their actions?

4. Pregnancy denial is a real phenomenon. Did you pick up on clues in the book that Laura was pregnant—clues that she herself simultaneously mentioned and ignored? Have you come across other forms of psychological denial, such as people refusing to acknowledge problems in their relationships, jobs, health, or behavior?

5. The Latin inscription at the folly translates as "A precipice in front, wolves behind." Do you think this is an apt description of the situation Laura finds herself in after the babies are born? Could she have achieved a better outcome?

6. When Vera admits she had initial doubts about the babies’ identities, Seraphine tells us: "I try to embrace [Vera’s] meaning: that it doesn’t matter to her, that she loves us anyway. But it’s not enough. Her love for us doesn’t give her the right to hide the truth from us." Do you agree? Do you have any sympathy with Vera’s desire to bring up the babies as Summerbourne twins irrespective of where they came from?

7. How did Michael’s stories and the village gossip about the Mayes family make you feel? Do you think rumors and gossip are inevitable in any community?

8. Do you believe Vera was guilty of all three of the crimes she was charged with—Ruth’s murder, Dominic’s murder, and Laura’s attempted murder?

9. If you could spend an afternoon on the Summerbourne patio with any one of the characters from The Au Pair, which one would you choose, and why?

10. What do you hope the future might hold for Laura and Seraphine?
(Questions issued by the publisher.)

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