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The Night Villa


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Reading Group Guide

1. The Night Villa continues the intersection of past and present narratives common in Carol Goodmans other novels, but with a much-greater expanse of time between the two threads. Does this make for a more dramatic narrative? What other effects does the gulf of time separating the two stories have?

2. Part of the plot is tied to a historical event: the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 a.d. What kind of shadow does this famous event cast over the novel?

3. How sympathetic a character did you find Agnes? Does her background fully explain her behavior?

4. Do you see Phineas as fundamentally decent, a pompous ass, or somewhere in between?

5. Cults play a significant role in this novel, past and present. How do you define a cult? Have you ever known a cult member? Why do you think people join them?

6. Who is your favorite character in The Night Villa? Least favorite?

7. The multispectral imaging technology used in The Night Villa has the potential to revolutionize the study of ancient manuscripts. What exotic or ancient world would you like to know more about?

8. Do you think Sophie was right to complain bitterly about conditions at the Hotel Convento? Or was she acting like a “spoiled American”?

9. What genre of writing do you think The Night Villa falls into?

10. Like previous Carol Goodman novels, The Night Villa brings its geographic setting vividly alive. Is there a place you have visited that has artistically inspired you?

11. Sophie is horrified in The Night Villa by the loss of her boyfriend, Ely, to a cult. Have you had a similar experience of distance developing in a relationship-perhaps if not because of a cult, then because of an addiction or an all-consuming hobby? If so, how did you handle it?

12. One characteristic of literary fiction is that characters are not static and may undergo genuine changes during the course of a narrative. What character or characters undergo transformations in The Night Villa?

13. Certainly Sophies impression of Elgin changes during the novel. Did yours? If so, do you think Elgin changed, or was it simply that you got more information about him?

14. When ex-lovers reencounter each other after years have passed, the results can range from animosity to the flame being resparked. Have you ever had such an encounter? What happened?

15. How do the issues in Iustas life relate to problems faced by contemporary women? Are they drastically different?

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katknit, April 20, 2009 (view all comments by katknit)
Carol Goodman's mysteries share two common elements: her protagonists are accomplished, American, female academics, usually in literature, who are drawn into complex projects in which a hidden conspiracy exposes them to great danger. Goodman is adept at layering her modern day thrillers over firm historical/mythological underpinnigs. In The Night Villa, Classics Professor Sophie Chase is lured to Italy for a chance to study newly discovered, ancient scrolls pertaining to the subject of her dissertation, Roman slave girl Petronia Iusta, whom Sophie sees as a woman ahead of her time. The others on her team have their own particular agendas, and not all of them are benign. Readers intrigued by mysterious cults and rites, arcane signs and symbols, labyrinths and grottos, and esoteric manuscripts, not to mention Herculaneum, will thoroughly enjoy The Night Villa, which has moments of genuine suspense despite a somewhat improbable denouement. Goodman's a first rate writer.
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Product Details

Goodman, Carol
Ballantine Books
Excavations (archaeology)
College teachers
Mystery fiction
General Fiction
Literature-A to Z
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
7.66x5.46x.91 in. .66 lbs.

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Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
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The Night Villa Used Trade Paper
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Product details 432 pages Ballantine Books - English 9780345479600 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by , Bestselling author Goodman's novel sweeps across the dramatic skies of present day Texas to ancient Capri, evocatively telling a tale of intrigue, romance, and treachery that changes two women's lives centuries apart.
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