The Last Summer of the Camperdowns (Hardcover)

By Elizabeth Kelly

Liveright Publishing Corporation, 9780871403407, 383pp.

Publication Date: June 3, 2013

June 2013 Indie Next List

“Twelve-year-old Riddle's world starts to crumble when she witnesses a terrible crime but doesn't report it. Set on Cape Cod in the rarified circles of old-money political dynasties, this story's characters are larger than life, brilliant, infuriating, and compelling. They have constituencies and causes, servants in their seaside mansions, famous artwork on their walls, and horse habits, yet they struggle with the shame of overstretched finances, an infamous love triangle, and buried secrets. The Last Summer of the Camperdowns is the perfect summer page-turner.”
— Sara Hinckley, Hudson Booksellers, Marietta, GA
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Description

The Last Summer of the Camperdowns, from the best-selling author of Apologize, Apologize , introduces Riddle James Camperdown, the twelve-year-old daughter of the idealistic Camp and his manicured, razor-sharp wife, Greer. It's 1972, and Riddle's father is running for office from the family compound in Wellfleet, Massachusetts. Between Camp's desire to toughen her up and Greer's demand for glamour, Riddle has her hands full juggling her eccentric parents. When she accidentally witnesses a crime close to home, her confusion and fear keep her silent. As the summer unfolds, the consequences of her silence multiply. Another mysterious and powerful family, the Devlins, slowly emerges as the keepers of astonishing secrets that could shatter the Camperdowns. As an old love triangle, bitter war wounds, and the struggle for status spiral out of control, Riddle can only watch, hoping for the courage to reveal the truth. The Last Summer of the Camperdowns is poised to become the summer's uproarious and dramatic must-read.


Conversation Starters from ReadingGroupChoices.com

  1. The novel is set in Cape Cod during the summer of 1972. How does the physical setting and time period affect the story? How would the plot differ if the story was set in a different location at a different historical moment?
  2. On numerous occasions throughout the novel, Riddle is compared to Greer. Are Riddle and Greer really as different as they appear? What qualities do they share?
  3. As Michael reappears in the life of the Camperdowns, the relationship between Camp and Greer alters. Why does Michael change their dynamic, and what else could be at work between Camp and Greer?
  4. How does Greer’s experience as an actress influence her daily behavior? Although Greer is the only actress by profession, what other characters are guilty of performing their lives? What initiates their needs to play out specific roles?
  5. Describe Riddle’s relationship with Gula. How do you interpret Gula’s fictitious stories that continue to unfold? Can you relate to Riddle’s complicated emotions of perversion and seduction toward Gula?
  6. Why do you think nineteen-year-old Harry has such an attachment to twelve-year-old Riddle? What is at the heart of their friendship? Do you think Harry will ever speak to Riddle again?
  7. What explains Gula’s fascination with Riddle? Why do you think Gula gave Riddle the present at the end of the book?
  8. Riddle’s reaction to finding Charlie’s body is noteworthy: “I felt such shame, such guilt, even as I was ashamed to feel shame, disgusted by my feelings of guilt.” Why do you think Riddle felt this way? What do her emotions reveal about her character?
  9. In Charlie’s book of condolences, Camp writes, “I will see you in the morning.” What do you think this means?
  10. Compare Michael and Camp; which man do you find more trustworthy? Whose account of the war do you believe? Who do you think Greer loved more?
  11. One theme of the book is the power of secrets, and the end of the book capitalizes on the secret Riddle has kept throughout regarding Charlie’s death. Do you think this is the most consequential secret of the book? What other secrets cause grave consequences?
  12. How does the first chapter, set in the present, frame the rest of the novel that is set in the past? When the novel returns to the present in the epilogue, how have your feelings for Riddle changed from the beginning of the book?
  13. The book is narrated from Riddle’s point of view. How does her perspective influence the story? Do you trust her as a narrator? Why or why not?
  14. Why do you think Riddle kept what she saw in the yellow barn a secret for so long? How was Gula able to manipulate Riddle to stay silent? What drove Riddle to finally reveal the truth?
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