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Reading Group Guide

Discussion Questions

An Absolute Scandal

1. What were your first impressions of the characters? How did your opinion of them shift throughout the novel? Which characters captured your imagination the most?

2. What are the main differences between Nigel and Blue? Why was Lucinda drawn to each of them, in different ways? How important is it for a couple to share similar economic and social backgrounds?

3. How does Flora’s personality affect her son’s marriage? Were you more sympathetic to Debbie or to Flora? What is the ideal role for in-laws and grandparents?

4. What sets Catherine apart from the other women in the book? What are her most endearing qualities? What keeps her from finding her Rochester (chapter 49) a bit sooner?

5. What do the children in An Absolute Scandal learn from their parents about weathering defeat and finding joy in life? What point of view will they bring to the twenty-first century?

6. Discuss Jamie and Annabel’s relationship. In what ways are they innocent and naïve? In what ways are they wise?

7. What does Joel mean to Debbie, and vice versa? Why was Richard more likely to suspect her of having an affair with Simon than with Joel?

8. Discuss the 1980s as a character. What do you miss the most and the least about that decade? What makes it the perfect period for a novel about vanity and artifice? What does it mean for styles to evolve from Laura Ashley and shoulder pads to minimalist lines and shades of gray?

9. Were you familiar with the process of becoming a Name (i.e. insurance underwriter)? Would you have been swayed to become a Name? To what extent does the appearance of prestige or the hope of social status affect investors’ decisions? Are most investment decisions rational?

10. In chapter thirteen, Fiona boils the case down to two essentials: “Whether the inducement to you to become Names was reckless or not [and] whether it was fraudulent or not.” Do you believe the novel’s characters shared any responsibility for their financial demise, or does blame rest squarely on the shoulders of the fictional Lloyd’s characters invented by Penny Vincenzi?

11. Though An Absolute Scandal is entirely a work of fiction, many headlines in recent years have portrayed similar episodes of contemporary corporate corruption. Do you believe that legislation now protects investors better? What is the best way to safeguard against the Tim Allinsons of this world? How would your family be affected if your net worth suddenly plummeted far into the red? Which creature comforts would it be most difficult for you to part with?

12. What themes of attraction, power, and fate are woven into this and previous novels by Penny Vincenzi? In what ways does her storytelling turn real-life scenarios into thrilling out-of-this world escapades?

An Absolute Scandal
by Penny Vincenzi

  • Publication Date: May 5, 2009
  • Paperback: 608 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor
  • ISBN-10: 0767926269
  • ISBN-13: 9780767926263