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Book clubs  •  2 March 2023


The Cloisters book club questions

A tale of toxic obsession, ambition and corrosive friendships with plenty of mystery to discuss with your book club.

The Cloisters has been called The Secret History for a new generation. A sinister and atmospheric novel, the book follows a close-knit circle of researchers at New York’s famed met Cloisters museum. When dark secrets start to arise, it becomes clear that a dangerous game is being played within the Cloisters. Our protagonist, Ann, will have to decide whether she can defy the cards to shape her future. . .

Discussion points and questions

  • The events of The Cloisters take place over one summer. How does the season and summer weather reflect Ann’s emotions and evolution throughout the novel?
  • Patrick and Rachel are first introduced in Chapter 2. What were your first impressions of each of them? Discuss the events that resulted in Ann working at The Cloisters.
  • Patrick is Rachel’s mentor, but he is also her lover. How does this dynamic complicate the situation at The Cloisters? Who do you think had more power in their relationship, and what form did that power take?
  • Early on, Rachel steals a cookie from the café, and later we see her play pranks on Moira, in addition to taking the tiles to identify plants in the garden and stealing a boat. What do these incidents tell us about Rachel? How do all of these ‘games’ foreshadow the dark and dangerous choices she has made over the years?
  • What do you think Ann’s motivations were to not share all of Lingraf’s writings with Rachel and to hide the false-fronted card from Patrick? How might the story have been different if she had shared this information with the team?
  • Loss is central to both Ann’s and Rachel’s stories. Discuss some of their major (and minor) losses throughout the book and how these may have shaped them as characters.
  • Laure warns Ann about Rachel’s past—why do you think Ann becomes so defensive of Rachel? At this point, do you think their friendship is a healthy one?
  • Discuss how Lingraf becomes central to the mystery and uncovering the truth.
  • Ann and Rachel come from very different backgrounds, but at the end of the novel, Rachel insists that they are the same. What personality traits does each of them share? How are they different? Ultimately, do you think Rachel is right?
  • In Chapter 4, Ann expresses how ‘Walla Walla would always feel like death to me’ (p. 33). Do you think the same can be said for The Cloisters after her summer there?
  • In the end, was it fate that decided what happened to these characters or the choices they made?
  • During the prologue, Ann talks about how she missed ‘the omens that haunted The Cloisters that summer.’ Having finished the novel, what were the omens? How did the prologue foreshadow the importance (or not) of Fate?
  • Both tarot and astrology play a significant role in today’s discourse. These days, it seems as if everyone knows their rising sign or has a tarot deck. How do those contemporary practices relate to the historic practices outlined in The Cloisters? Are they different? Similar? Do you use either device and if so, why?

Feature Title

The Cloisters
Pitched as The Secret History for a new generation, this dark tale of toxic obsession, ambition and corrosive friendships proved to be one of the year's most captivating debuts - a top 10 bestseller in the UK and the USA!
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