For our October FYA Book Club pick, we’re headed to the centuries-old, ivy-covered, definitely-haunted hallowed halls of Dalloway School in Victoria Lee’s A Lesson in Vengeance. This book is what Dark Academia is all about: obsession, madness, ghosts, covens, murders, tweed blazers. It’s ALL here, folks. Prepare to be haunted, but before you jump into these discussion questions, beware of spoilers!
This book contains death, violence, manipulation and emotional abuse, and substance abuse.
1. For Dalloway girls, getting to live in Godwin House was the ultimate goal because Emily Dickinson once stayed there. Which historical figure, writer or otherwise, would have you doing everything in your power to live in a house where they once stayed?
2. Felicity has spent years obsessively researching the Dalloway Five for her thesis, and knows everything about them. What is a subject or topic, no matter how trivial, that you know enough about to write a thesis on?
1. What did you think of Felicity as a protagonist and unreliable narrator? Did you believe her to be someone suffering from symptoms of PTSD or did you suspect she was purposely misleading us?
2. Felicity was both comforted and haunted by things like magic, tarot, and witchcraft – to the point that she had to be careful for fear of letting herself get lost in it. Do you think some personality types or people with certain lived experiences are more likely to be drawn to the occult? Why was Felicity so drawn to it?
3. As a Pulitzer-winning “method writer,” Ellis is obsessed with recreating certain scenarios as research for her book. Did you believe that her schemes were purely research, or did you suspect she had an end-game in mind? Were you shocked to find out why she was at Dalloway, or that she betrayed Felicity the way that she did?
4. Did Quinn’s story about Ellis being trapped with her dead grandmother for four weeks change the way you felt about Ellis? If so, how?
5. What did you think of the romance between Felicity and Ellis? Did the shroud of mystery and secrets make the swoon exciting, or did distrust keep you from rooting for them?
6. When discussing her book, Ellis says, “I want to interrogate the concept of the psychopath: whether villainy exists in that truest form or if it’s simply a manifestation of some human drive that lurks in all of us.” What do you think? Does evil lurk in all of us?
7. Victoria Lee has been quoted saying that she wanted to explore the overlap between intellectual obsessions and mental illness, a common theme in the Dark Academia genre. Do you think she did so successfully?
8. Ultimately, Ellis’ book was about “a female psychopath who falls in love with a beautiful woman who appears innocent at first glance but who harbors deadly secrets of her own.” What is your interpretation of that description? Who was the psychopath, and who was the beautiful woman: Felicity, Alex, or Ellis?
9. How did you interpret the ending, when Felicity was on the roof with Talia? What do you think the future holds for Felicity?