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None of This Is True includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Lisa Jewell
. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book. Introduction From the #1 New York Times bestselling author known for her “superb pacing, twisted characters, and captivating prose” (BuzzFeed), Lisa Jewell returns with a scintillating new psychological thriller about a woman who finds herself the subject of her own popular true crime podcast.
Celebrating her forty-fifth birthday at her local pub, popular podcaster Alix Summer crosses paths with an unassuming woman called Josie Fair. Josie, it turns out, is also celebrating her forty-fifth birthday. They are, in fact, birthday twins.
A few days later, Alix and Josie bump into each other again, this time outside Alix’s children’s school. Josie has been listening to Alix’s podcasts and thinks she might be an interesting subject for her series. She is, she tells Alix, on the cusp of great changes in her life.
Josie’s life appears to be strange and complicated, and although Alix finds her unsettling, she can’t quite resist the temptation to keep making the podcast. Slowly she starts to realize that Josie has been hiding some very dark secrets, and before she knows it, Josie has inveigled her way into Alix’s life—and into her home.
But, as quickly as she arrived, Josie disappears. Only then does Alix discover that Josie has left a terrible and terrifying legacy in her wake, and that Alix has become the subject of her own true crime podcast, with her life and her family’s lives under mortal threat.
Who is Josie Fair? And what has she done? Topics & Questions for Discussion
1. Consider how the book’s title influenced your perception of events and characters. What elements were you suspicious of from the start because of the title?
2. What about a shared birthday might make you feel bonded to someone? Would you feel a sense of connection and intrigue the way Josie and Alix do? Why do you think Josie imbues this relatively ordinary coincidence with so much importance and meaning?
3. In what ways are we encouraged to see Josie in a sympathetic light in the early chapters? How does Lisa Jewell’s characterization lead us to think of Josie as just a little quirky or lonely—and ultimately harmless?
4. When researching Alix online, we learn that Josie has social media accounts but never posts anything: “She’s a consummate lurker. She never posts, she never comments, she never likes. She just looks” (page 21). How does this play out in larger ways in Josie’s life?
5. As Alix learns increasingly dark details about Josie’s life, she is disturbed but she doesn’t intervene, nor does she stop the podcast interviews. Do you think Alix should have done something? What do you think the outcome would have been?
6. Josie ponders her life and choices throughout the novel, at one point wondering how she might leave her family and live elsewhere. She thinks to herself, “Alix is the answer to everything, somehow” (page 135). Why does Josie think Alix will change her life? How do you think she envisions a change at this point in the novel?
7. What was your initial reaction to the scene in which Josie screams at and slaps Walter? After knowing the ending, how do you now understand their dynamics?
8. When Josie and Walter come for dinner at Alix and Nathan’s, it becomes clear that Josie hasn’t told Walter about the podcast. Alix thinks to herself that it’s a “classic Josie maneuver, like buying a Pomchi without checking that it really was a Pomchi . . . a sort of blundering, thoughtless, aimless approach to life. A ‘do the thing and worry about it later’ approach” (page 159). Do you agree with Alix’s characterization of Josie? Or do you think Josie is secretly more calculating?
9. In what ways does class influence the book’s events? How do the two families’ different social classes factor into the plot?
10. What details from Erin and Roxy’s stories about their childhoods and more recent events shocked you the most? Which of Josie’s lies did you assume were true and why?
11. Toward the end of the novel, we get more perspectives on Josie as a character and the truth of what she did—from her children, her mother, Katelyn, and others. With these increased points of view, how do you now see Josie?
12. In the very last scene, Josie is on a bus contemplating the past. She’s convinced herself that the way she remembers things is what really happened. Do you think we are supposed to believer her, or is she deluding herself?
13. What clues did you pick up on throughout the first half of the novel that made you think not all was as it seemed in Josie’s life? Were your predictions accurate? Enhance Your Book Club
1. Choose a true crime podcast to listen to and compare and contrast the narration approach with Alix’s podcast. As a group, consider the ethics of true crime podcasts and their rise as popular entertainment. Are there ways to tell these stories ethically while still being engaging?
2. Imagine if Lisa Jewell had chosen a different narrative structure from this novel and only told it from one point of view. What would the reading experience be like if you only had Alix’s or Josie’s POV? What might you gain and what might you lose from only one woman’s perspective?
3. Read more of Lisa Jewell’s novels and connect with her on Twitter @lisajewelluk, on Instagram @lisajewelluk, and on Facebook @lisajewellofficial. A Conversation with Lisa Jewell Q: Do you have a birthday twin? What interested you in the idea of connecting the two women this way?
Interestingly, I do, and it’s fellow author and good friend, Louise Candlish. We were both flabbergasted when we made the discovery, it seemed extraordinary to us that we’d both come into the world on the same day and ended up doing the same job in the same very small orbit. Louise is a woman I feel a very strong bond with, although we don’t see each other much, I absolutely get her, and she makes total sense to me. So the impetus for using birthday twins as an opening into the novel definitely did not spring from my own experience. Instead it seemed an ideal opportunity to show how divergent women’s lives can be in spite of similar beginnings. Q: None of This Is True includes podcast interviews throughout. What were you excited to explore by including a podcast within the structure, as well as by having one of the narrators be a podcaster?
In fact there is no podcast within the structure of the book. All the interviews between Alix and Josie are written as part of the traditional narrative. Using a scripted podcast format was something I actively wanted to avoid, in fact. The podcast only comes alive as a script when it’s used as part of the Netflix documentary and it was that documentary that really formed the structure of the book, not the podcast itself. It was actually a relatively late addition to the book, when I realized that the tension was building in an incredibly quiet and slow burn way and I realized my readers would need something to make them fear for the outcome, and I suddenly pictured Josie’s neighbor sitting on a chair in a TV studio talking about her impressions of Josie and Walter and realized that that was the way to do it. Q: Did you listen to any podcasts for inspiration?
Not specifically, no. I’ve listened to a few weird true crime podcasts over the years, but don’t get much time to listen to audio as part of my day to day life. My inspiration for this book was taken much more from TV documentaries such as Abducted in Plain Sight
, Don’t F**k With Cats
, The Tinder Swindler, etc., those documentaries where you get to the end and think to yourself, “What the hell did I just watch?” That was exactly the feel and impact I wanted for my book. Q: What was your experience of writing from Josie’s perspective? Was it challenging to be inside her head?
It’s never challenging to be inside the heads of the weird characters, some of my favorite characters to write have been the oddest and the most innerving (Noelle from Then She Was Gone
, Henry from The Family Upstairs
, Freddie in Watching You
, Owen in Invisible Girl
, Lorelei in The House We Grew Up In
). These kinds of characters tend to write themselves, and in fact I find the more grounded, relatable characters much harder to write about because there’s less elasticity to them, less propensity to surprise and confound, fewer places, ultimately, to go with them. I adored being inside Josie’s head, and it wasn’t until I got to the very end that I realized that her head was actually broken. Q: Were there any plot and character revelations you were especially excited to finally give the reader?
I rewrote the epilogue four times. I knew there was one more thing I could give myself (as at this point I still didn’t really truly know what had happened or who to believe) and to the reader, that would absolutely make sense of everything at the same time as turning everything on its head, and so when I wrote that epilogue and saw what had really happened through the lens of Josie’s warped and broken mind, I was as shocked as I expect my readers to be. Of course, I thought to myself, of course! All along I’d been painting Roxy in these tiny splashes of dark back story without every really exploring what a child like that might end up being capable of, especially with a pedophile for a father, a narcissist for a grandmother, and a sociopath for a mother. It was the perfect ending and made sense of everything. The relief I felt as I put it on the page was immense. Q: Readers will be shocked by the twists and turns of this plot; did any elements surprise you while you were writing it?
Oh, so many things. I always write without a plan and I really had no idea where the whole bizarre set up was heading, so pretty much every twist and turn surprised me; from Erin eating baby food, to Walter sleeping with Brooke, to Walter having once been in a relationship with Pat, to Nathan’s death at the end (I almost chickened out after I wrote that part and brought him back to life, but my editor talked me out of it!) But it was mainly the Roxy revelation at the end that blew my mind. Q: What themes did you especially want to explore in this novel?
I never go into a novel to explore themes, I’m not really interested in themes and it often surprises me when publishers and reviewers assign themes to my books after the event—but I would say that one of the things that really inspired the writing of this novel was an experience I’d had the year before I started it where I allowed another writer to shadow my writing year in order to write a book about it. The process was actually fine, and the other writer was incredibly professional and easy to work with, but I did have a moment or two of thinking, “Why am I doing this, he could be anyone?,” and that unsettling, insidious fear of “letting the wrong person in” did underscore the book as I was writing it, definitely. Q: Can you tell us what you’re working on next?
I just finished an exciting new project—a book for Marvel! It’s a crime novel set in the Marvel universe, using the character of Jessica Jones who is a private investigator with superpowers. It was massively challenging to write in some ways—because I always write without a plan it’s helpful for me to have to work within the constricts of the “real world.” Without those constricts to keep me on the straight and narrow I did lose my way a few times, much more so than when I’m writing traditional thrillers. But it was, at the same time, the best fun ever and Jessica Jones now feels like a part of me forever, definitely one of my favorite characters I’ve written to date. This means there won’t be a classic Lisa Jewell novel coming in 2024, but I hope that some of you might take a punt on my foray into sci-fi! After that my next traditional book will be a marriage scam novel, another one inspired by all the weird documentaries I’ve been watching! I start writing it in September, and it will be published in 2025.