Questions and Topics for Discussion
1. The Night Villa continues the intersection of past and present narratives common in Carol Goodman’s 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 Sophie’s 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 Iusta’s life relate to problems faced by contemporary women? Are they drastically different?