*If you are new here, WELCOME! For The Maidens, I provide your book club with a brief summary, food ideas, and discussion questions in that order!
After his wildly popular debut, The Silent Patient, Alex Michaelides has finally released his sophomore novel, The Maidens. Another thriller, The Maidens, takes place in England, primarily on the Cambridge campus.
The novel follows Mariana Andros, a grieving widow and a group therapist, who becomes obsessed with a series of murders that occur at Cambridge. Her main suspect is Greek tragedy professor, Edward Fosca.
Readers who love the recent themes from Greek mythology that are taking the book world by storm (think Circe and A Thousand Ships, among others), will love this thriller rife with Greek mythology references.
While there is a brief return of some characters from The Silent Patient, the references are light and not essential to the storyline, so if you haven’t read The Silent Patient don’t fret. Some readers may be slightly confused as the timeline suggests that The Maidens may have taken place before the events of The Silent Patient, but, again, it isn’t too distracting.
While I found this to be an entertaining read that kept me turning pages quickly until the very end, I do admit that I found the ending to be…surprising. And, not in a particularly good way.
Other readers, though, have loved it–ending and all.
I still enjoyed the read overall, especially the Greek references. I also loved the setting and enjoyed learning more about Cambridge and its peculiarities.
However you feel about the ending, it will definitely foster a lively book club discussion. And, isn’t that what we enjoy more than anything?
I’ve provided book club questions and delicious food ideas for The Maidens, so if you are looking for book club ideas and more, keep reading!
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Here’s a brief summary of The Maidens:
From the Publisher: “Edward Fosca is a murderer. Of this Mariana is certain. But Fosca is untouchable. A handsome and charismatic Greek tragedy professor at Cambridge University, Fosca is adored by staff and students alike―particularly by the members of a secret society of female students known as The Maidens.
Mariana Andros is a brilliant but troubled group therapist who becomes fixated on The Maidens when one member, a friend of Mariana’s niece Zoe, is found murdered in Cambridge.
Mariana, who was once herself a student at the university, quickly suspects that behind the idyllic beauty of the spires and turrets, and beneath the ancient traditions, lies something sinister. And she becomes convinced that, despite his alibi, Edward Fosca is guilty of the murder. But why would the professor target one of his students? And why does he keep returning to the rites of Persephone, the maiden, and her journey to the underworld?
When another body is found, Mariana’s obsession with proving Fosca’s guilt spirals out of control, threatening to destroy her credibility as well as her closest relationships. But Mariana is determined to stop this killer, even if it costs her everything―including her own life.”
For The Maidens Food Ideas:
The entire novel, I thought that Fred’s apples were going to come to light as a clue. Hello, red herring! Anyway, I was definitely planning a menu in my head featuring apples. But, if apples aren’t your thing, there’s an array options from the book, which is always nice for book club!
Here are a few of the food ideas from the pages of The Maidens:
(I believe the audio book and actual book have different Chapter denotations, so I put both here.)
- Part 1 Chapter 9 – Mariana meets Fred on the train – bananas, grapes, apples, and tea
- Part 2 Chapter 4 or Chapter 24 – Mariana speaks with the Bedders – biscuits and tea
- Part 2 Chapter 5 or Chapter 25 – Mariana buys Elsie chocolate cake in order to talk to her
- Part 2 Chapter 8 or Chapter 28- Mariana takes Zoe to a French restaurant- rose champagne
- Part 3 Chapter 9 or Chapter 46 – Mariana and Zoe have lunch with Clarissa – pheasant and pears poached in wine and poached salmon and vegetables
- Part 3 Chapter 12 or Chapter 50 – Mariana has dinner with Edward – champagne and red wine with leg of lamb, roast potatoes and salad, and pudding for desert
- Part 4 Chapter 2 or Chapter 53 – Mariana seeks out Fred – chips and malt vinegar
- Part 4 Chapter 12 or Chapter 63 – Fellows’ buffet with Clarissa for breakfast- scrambled eggs, bacon, sausages, bread and pastries with marmalade, and kedgeree (which is haddock, eggs, and rice)
I also thought the dinner Edward serves to Mariana was a perfect menu for a book club get together. A full meal complete with a desert and champagne. Light a few candles and turn down the lights to create a similar dramatic atmosphere!
Whether you choose something from this list or trying your own option, I hope these food ideas will get your creative juices flowing to host your book club for The Maidens!
The Maidens Book Club Questions:
*WARNING: May contain spoilers!
- The novel primarily takes place on the Cambridge campus. Throughout the book, Michaelides gives us glimpses of the culture on campus. Which part intrigued you most? Did you go to a university with similar customs?
- Why do you think that Mariana felt the urge to involve herself in the murder case? Do you think it was merely to protect Zoe, her own failing to protect Sebastian, or something else?
- Why do you think that Fred pursues Mariana? Throughout the book, Mariana also finds herself drawn to him despite her own protestations. Did you find Fred suspicious? What do you think happens to the two of them after the ending?
- Discuss the many, many red herrings presented throughout the book. Who did you suspect was the killer? What led you to that suspicion?
- The theme of groups runs throughout the book. From the Maidens, the Bedders, the faculty and students, the criminal investigators, and the therapists, each group contains its own microcosm of ideas and suspicions. As a reader, which discriminations from the groups did you spot immediately and which led you astray?
- After reading, did you wish that the Maidens had been more central to the novel than they were or did you feel like their presence was sufficient? What did you think of Edward Fosca? Did you find him as enigmatic and alluring as the students did?
- Mariana is a trained group therapist with a degree from Cambridge. Did you believe that she would miss the personality of the killer like she did? Why or why not?
- Throughout the novel, Greek mythology plays a large role. Did you enjoy this? What were the parallels to Demeter and Persephone that you noticed in the book? Did that clue you in to who the murderer was? (Here’s a little more on the myth of Persephone: click HERE.)
- Discuss the ending of the book. Did you find it believable? Why or why not? Were you disappointed that the novel ended before Mariana’s final confrontation with the murderer?
- Compare this novel to The Silent Patient, if you have read it. Did you like it less or more? How did it compare to other recent thrillers you have read?
Have you read The Maidens? What did you think? Did it satisfy you or were you left wishing for more? What are some similar books you’ve read?
Until next time, Happy Reading!
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