This reading group guide for Watching You includes 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. Topics and Questions for Discussion
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1. Watching You
begins with a diary excerpt from 1996. How does this passage set the tone for the novel? Now that you’ve finished reading, who do you think wrote it?
2. Lisa Jewell includes a number of red herrings that lead the reader to one suspicion and then another. What were some of the red herrings you noticed in the book? Did you fall for them?
3. Early on, we see how Freddie thinks about his surveillance “project”: “Freddie was not a voyeur. Voyeurism was a form of control. . . . He watched girls in order to understand them. He was just trying to work it all out” (p. 38). Do you agree that his intent and motivation in spying is what’s most important? And in our privacy-deprived world (where our information, photos, and even thoughts are often available online), what kind of watching is too much? How do we define an invasion of privacy?
4. Jenna Tripp describes the chat rooms her mother frequents as somewhere “she could go to have her craziness validated” (p. 130). Many people use online communities to form connections and feel less isolated, particularly if they feel misunderstood by those around them. Yet Jenna observes that her mother’s delusions are being exacerbated by talking to people with similar issues. Discuss what makes an insular community (like a chat room) supportive or detrimental. Can it be both?
5. Freddie recollects that his parents taught him not to embrace the diagnosis his doctors had given him because he would “always be so much more than a label” (p. 234). Do you think claiming an identity label, like the one Freddie eventually reclaims, is limiting? Why, or why not?
6. On page 239, Freddie tells Jenna about how his mother accommodates all of his father’s desires, from the food in the house to the temperature on the thermostat. Looking back at this passage with what you now know about their relationship, do you see this in a different light? Why do you think Nicola went to these lengths to bend to Tom’s wishes?
7. The complexities of the marital abuse described in Watching You
undermine some of the assumptions we often make about what gives someone power in a relationship. What power dynamics do we see in the various marriages in the novel? How do these fit or defy our expectations?
8. A cult of personality builds around Tom Fitzwilliam, although once disillusioned, Joey wonders what she saw in him. What do you think enables someone to have such a widespread draw? Have you known anyone who amassed that type of adoration in your own life? Are there other examples from popular culture who Tom reminded you of?
9. Considering what the men in her life have told her, Joey wonders if, “while most women spent their lives searching for the perfect man, men sat around waiting to be chosen and then made the best of it” (p. 313). Do you think this is true? Why, or why not?
10. While it is normal for people, and particularly for schoolgirls, to get crushes on someone they shouldn’t become involved with, in Watching You
some of these “crushes” appear to be unhealthy. Where is the line between infatuation and obsession? Who are some characters that you think fell on the infatuation side of that line? Who became dangerously obsessed? Looking at examples, what do you think distinguishes them?Enhance Your Book Club
1. At the end of the novel, we are left uncertain about what exactly happened to Viva Hart. What was the nature of her relationship with Tom Fitzwilliam? Did she commit suicide, or was she murdered? What do you think really happened in 1996? Have each person in your reading group share their theories, and vote to see who has the most convincing theory.
2. Although we see several different perspectives in the novel, we never are shown Tom, Nicola, Rebecca, Jack, or Alfie’s points of view. Choose one of these characters and write a short story looking through their eyes. You can rewrite any scene in the book, or consider writing a flashback scene. Bring your short story to share and discuss with your reading group.
3. Check out more of Lisa Jewell’s books, such as Then She Was Gone, I Found You
, and The Girls in the Garden
. To find out more about Lisa, visit www.facebook.com/LisaJewellofficial, or follow her on Twitter @lisajewelluk.