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Reading Group Guide "If you live on the garden, you can't help but see things. We all see straight into each others' back gardens, rear windows -- and should live our lives accordingly."
Something smells dodgy in Lonsdale Gardens and it's not the primroses sprouting from the flower boxes. It's what lies beneath this private, upscale community in the Notting Hill district of London that is creating quite a stink. Here residents are blessed with the key to the beautiful communal garden...and cursed with having to share it with their neighbors:
• The Sturgises: Clare is too busy trying to be a garden-design consultant, neighborhood snoop, and mummy to be to notice that her eco- architect husband Gideon has a naughty little secret.
• The Flemings: Mimi, a freelance journalist, is passionate about living in the elite neighborhood even though her husband Ralph knows they are living well beyond their means.
• The Moltons: Marguerite, a typical NHM (Notting Hill mummy) with food issues, is married to Patrick, a banker with an appetite for other women.
• The Lacostes: Virginie and Mathieu are a French couple who out-chic everyone else, but Virginie is spotted sneaking around the garden at night half naked when her husband is out of town.
• The Averys: The token Americans, Bob and Sally are putting off some neighbors with their renovation plans, and getting quite chummy with others.
• Si Kasparian: the new billionaire on the block, is looking for the perfect woman to accessorize his yacht...even if she another man's wife.
Parties, high-end shopping, feng-shui
debriefings, private yoga classes, and celebrity sightings all flourish in Lonsdale Gardens. But f ertilized with betrayal and backstabbings, life in this picture-perfect garden neighborhood is about to grow out of control. Discussion Questions
1. There are two narrators in this novel, Clare and Mimi. How do they differ in their storytelling styles? Do you think it is important to have two narrators? Why or why not?
2. "Clutter is anything that gets in the way of the ability to move through the day with grace, serenity, and self-respect" (page 13). Residents of Lonsdale Gardens are obsessed with feng shui
. Why is this ironic? At the end of the novel, are all things harmonious in the characters' lives?
3. "We're all charming and considerate when we're on our own turf, or in each others' houses, but anything to do with the communal garden manages to bring out the two-year-old in all of us" (page 34). What does the communal garden symbolize in this novel?
4. Mimi broke the First Law of Adultery. What is it? Why does she risk her family's happiness by having an affair?
5. "The taking part couldn't matter less, it's the winning that counts" (page 234). What does each woman -- Clare, Mimi, Marguerite, Virginie, and Sally -- hope to achieve in their own lives?
6. "I tell what
I know and, more importantly, I tell him why
I'm telling him..." (page 286). What transpires between Clare and Ralph? Do you approve or disapprove of their actions? How much do you think Mimi knows about their conspiracy?
7. "I may have been betrayed by my husband, my best friend, and my lover, and in more ways than I will ever know, but what a bonus and a blessing those betrayals have turned out to be...." (page 326) Why does Mimi think these betrayals are blessings? Do all the betrayals in this book turn out to be blessings?
8. After reading this book, would you like a key to Lonsdale Gardens? Why or why not?
9. The Sunday Times
says: "There are plenty of wicked one-liners in this read." Which one is your favorite?
10. Mimi regards Clare as her "closest chum on the garden." What do you think of their friendship? Do you think any of the women in Notting Hell
are true friends to each other?
11. This novel is full of men who are either deceitful or dim...or both. Are there any decent male characters in Rachel Johnson's Lonsdale Gardens? If so, name them!
12. Are you a believer in feng shui
? If so, does the room you are sitting in now have flow? How would you rearrange the room in order to be feng-shui
friendly? Reader's Tips
Give a great garden party: If you don't live on a communal garden like the ladies of Notting Hell
, host your book club meeting in a public garden. (To find a public garden in your area, do an advanced search at http://www.aabga.org/Custom/GardenSearch.aspx.)
Test your Notting knowledge: Use the glossary in the back of the book to quiz your book club members on their Notting Hill vocabulary.
Fantasize about your funeral: Mimi's always looking for interesting people to describe their final send-off for her column, "It's Your Funeral." Have your book club members share their ideas for their last rites.