Storm tossed moody island…check. Bridezilla and Groomzilla…check. Wedding guests with secrets…check. A dead body…check. What more do you need from a thriller? With all the dark secrets and twisty turns, The Guest List will definitely feed a great book club discussion.
Our The Guest List Book Club questions and discussion prompts will help you get started. This book, while a popular Reese’s Book Club pick, wasn’t universally loved among Goodreads reviews, so be sure to use our selected reviews in your book discussion. But we are also providing the publisher’s synopsis and 10 discussion questions to fuel the conversation.
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The Guest List Synopsis
The Guest List, Lucy Foley
The bride – The plus one – The best man – The wedding planner – The bridesmaid – The body
On an island off the coast of Ireland, guests gather to celebrate two people joining their lives together as one. The groom: handsome and charming, a rising television star. The bride: smart and ambitious, a magazine publisher. It’s a wedding for a magazine, or for a celebrity: the designer dress, the remote location, the luxe party favors, the boutique whiskey. The cell phone service may be spotty and the waves may be rough, but every detail has been expertly planned and will be expertly executed.
But perfection is for plans, and people are all too human. As the champagne is popped and the festivities begin, resentments and petty jealousies begin to mingle with the reminiscences and well wishes. The groomsmen begin the drinking game from their school days. The bridesmaid not-so-accidentally ruins her dress. The bride’s oldest (male) friend gives an uncomfortably caring toast.
And then someone turns up dead. Who didn’t wish the happy couple well? And perhaps more important, why?
The Guest List Book Club Questions
- Until the very end, the book makes a mystery of not only whodunnit, but whogotdone. Did you correctly guess the killer or the deceased before the end? If so, what were your clues?
- Agatha Christie perfected what’s called the “locked room mystery”. You know, someone dies at the vicarage and it could only have been one of the assembled people. Foley updates this method using a moody island and a brewing storm. “It feels personal, this storm. As if it has saved all its fury for them.” Did you like the setting of the “locked island” mystery?
- “A cormorant on a steeple: that’s an ill omen. The devil’s bird, they call it in these parts. The cailleach dhubh, the black hag, the bringer of death. Here’s hoping that the bride and groom don’t know this, or that they aren’t the superstitious sort.” Well, that quote from Aoife (the caterer) was a portent of things to come, wasn’t it?
- The book is told from the point of view of multiple people. How did that add to the narrative? How might the book have been different if told just from the point of view of Julie, Olivia or Johnno?
- And even after we are introduced to our narrators, their chapter headings label them as: the bride, the bridesmaid, the best man, the plus-one. Why do you suppose that the author made this choice?
- “There are always secrets around the fringes of a wedding”. How did you respond to the various secrets? Which were the juiciest to you?
- Was Will simply a thoughtless jerk, or was he a full blown sociopath?
- Will’s actions caused a murder, a suicide and an abortion. And coincidentally, family members, perpetrators and victims of these three deeds all came together for the wedding. Too much coincidence?
- Setting aside the death and the moody setting, did you recognize some common tropes and dramas from weddings that you’ve attended (or hosted)? What about the divorced couple shooting silent barbs, the out of place sister (cousin or friend), the drunk friend, the stale school stories, secrets, silences or sorrow?
- Would you have your wedding (or even attend one) on a boggy windswept patch of Irish coastline? If so, why? If not, why not?
Selected Reviews of The Guest List
“In a sea of mediocre mysteries and thrillers, this one caught my attention and held it through to the explosive ending. Lucy Foley writes psychological fiction that isn’t flashy, but focuses a quiet power to envelop the reader with strong writing and plotting”
“I feel like atmospheric and drizzly island settings are so apt for thrillers like this, how else would you get the chills? This was gripping from the start. Following the narrations of all the characters was intriguing, you can tell each of them have their secrets, they’re not exactly who they seem to be. Even though not much happens in the first half of the book, I was invested enough that I wanted to get to the ending quickly. It also had me at the edge of my seat towards the end.”
“Too many points of view made the story a tad choppy like driving with one foot on the brake and one foot on the gas. Stop, start. Just when I got going into one character’s story, we’re off to another. Lots of atmosphere, and the setting carries equal, if not more, weight than the characters. The story is like a frayed rope being braided tighter and tighter as we approached the crisis.”
“Finally, I think that the author put one too many layers of reveal at the end- one too many people had a connection to the murdered character than was believable. Kind of a case of sticking one more Christmas tree ornament on top and it’s so heavy, its the last straw and it falls over. “
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3 Books Like The Guest List
If you are a fan of Foley’s twisty page-turners, then check out our discussion guide for The Paris Apartment.
Another suspenseful Reese’s pick about families is The Last Thing He Told Me, which features a Hannah and her step-daughter Bailey on a quest to figure out why husband/father Owen has disappeared. You could also delve into a dark and twisty psychological thriller with our The Silent Patient guide.
And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie is the original locked room mystery. And she followed it up with the locked train mystery, Murder on the Orient Express. But if you’ve already plowed through her canon, here are a few other options for books like The Guest List.
by Tana French
French’s In the Woods manages to produce a Irish literary hat trick. It’s a cracking good page turner but it also has a complex and sympathetic main character and it delivers a liberal dose of dark Irish family dynamics.
In 1984 Rob Ryan was one of three kids who went missing. He was ultimately found– but the other kids weren’t. Ryan is now part of the Dublin Murder Squad assigned to investigate an eerily similar crime. The book is dark and twisty, but you’ll find yourself caring a lot about the characters.
Lo Blacklock thinks that she’s scored the best writing assignment ever when she’s invited to go on the inaugural journey of a deluxe new cruise ship. But then she witnesses what she believes is a woman being thrown overboard. And yet, no one is missing from the ship, the crew and guests don’t believe Lo, and her poking around gets her into big trouble.
This book has strong vibes from The Girl on the Train mixed with the claustrophobic setting of The Guest List.
by Maggie Shipstead
If you like the island setting of The Guest List but you want more of that slow motion wedding disaster and rich people problems, then Seating Arrangements is your next beach read.
The book is set on a wealthy family’s New England Island retreat. The happy couple are WASPy Daphne and her fiancé Grayson. Things on the island start going wrong when the guests arrive. They’re packing a ton of drama, creating a spectacle of misplaced desire, infidelity, broken hearts and bones– all delivered with a strong dose of Shipstead’s satirical wit.
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