Synopses & Reviews
This is the story of Gemma and me: how I lost her, I suppose. I don't usually tell it to anyone but myself;
I save it for the darkest moments.
Losing Gemma, Katy's Gardners debut novel about adventure, losing your best friend, and self-discovery, has been translates into twelve languages and compared to Alex Garland's breakthrough novel, The Beach, among many others. This time, the backpacking heroes are girls. What makes Losing Gemma truly unforgettable, is the read itself; it's an impossibly suspenseful novel that's as gripping as it is psychologically rich. Two young women have gone looking for adventure, backpacking through Indiabut only one returns. The other one believes it's all her fault. And the mystery behind what really happened during their fateful visit to a secluded shrine compels the reader forward to a page-turning conclusion that's shocking, strange, and haunting.
"[E]xtremely entertaining....The animating mystery in Losing Gemma is a gripping, psychologically resonant one....Gardner wonderfully illuminates the currents of envy and power that disfigure friendships....[She does] an excellent job of capturing a very definite type, one that's rarely been explored in fiction before." Michelle Goldberg, Salon.com
"Gardner's stark setting...heightens the characters' senses and builds uneasy suspense page by page until the surprise conclusion....If the denouement is somewhat slick, Esther's delayed coming-of-age has emotional clout." Publishers Weekly
"[A] strong, atmospheric story that unfortunately falls too often into horror cliché....[Gardner's] rendition of Gemma and Esther's friendship will reverberate with many young female readers....A tragic thriller...saddled with an ending that readers will see coming about 40 pages away." Kirkus Reviews
In the late 1980s, Esther and Gemma whose friendship is complicated by Esther's beauty and her tendency to steal plain Gemma's boyfriends take a backpacking trip to India. When they meet up with a third traveler, Coral, things take a sinister turn, leaving Esther with a bad case of guilt.
About the Author
Katy Gardner is a graduate of Cambridge University, and received a Ph.D. from The London School of Economics. She is currently a senior lecturer in Social Anthropology at the University of Sussex. Losing Gemma is her first novel.
Reading Group Guide
1. Part of the allure of travel is the change in perspective that it offers. In what way did this effect Gemma and Esther? Discuss how each of them reacted to the stresses and delights of the chaotic culture they confronted.
2. Some people enjoy travel especially to places as far-flung as India because it represents freedom from responsibilities and the ordinary. Discuss the negative implications of this for Gemma and Esther.
3. This novel effectively offers us two versions of the same story. If neither version is wrong, what does that tell us about Esther and Gemma's relationship? And how far do you think this is true of our relationships with those we are closest?
4. Esther derides the backpacking culture she observes around her, but in many ways, she is a perfect example of what she mocks. How does her insistence on the trip to the shrine reflect that?
5. Esther is very controlling, despite her desire to be a free spirit in India. So, why do you think she takes such a long time to listen to her instincts?
6. Do you believe that Gemma was always the one who was really stronger and in control? How would you explain her attraction to Zak and his group?
7. Do you believe Gemma was pushed into becoming a detached and controlling person as a result of all those years feeling like she was the ugly duckling? Or do you think she used her role as the weaker, less outgoing sidekick to disarm others and manipulate situations to her advantage?
8. Discuss the ugly competitiveness that thrived between these so-called best friends. What were the clearest demonstrations of this dynamic?
9. In what way does Gemma really achieve the ultimate revenge on Esther? Did she mean to?
10. Do you think that Gemma and Esther's real mistake was in failing to recognize that they had long ago outgrown each other? Did they allow affection and nostalgia to obscure this fact or did the point of their friendship become the competition?