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A Novel

  • reading group guide

Julian and Annie have only just announced their forthcoming marriage when Annie’s twelve-year-old son, Dan, fails to come home from school. Despite an extensive police investigation, the days turn into weeks and it is as if Dan has vanished into thin air.

Over the next three years Annie refuses to give up hope that somewhere her son is alive and will one day return home. Julian, meanwhile, can’t help but yearn for Annie to put the past behind her and move on. Then, out of the blue, a call brings shocking news of Dan’s fate. And far from being over, it seems the mystery of his disappearance is only just beginning.

In spare, searing prose, Deceptions addresses our simultaneous need for—and wariness of—human connection and the extremes that we are driven to by these competing impulses. Marking British literary star Rebecca Frayn’s arrival in the United States, this is fiction at its riveting best.
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  • Washington Square Press | 
  • 288 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781439196410 | 
  • May 2011
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Ask me why I have never told this story before and I will tell you quite straightforwardly. I’ve always believed one must strive to put painful episodes behind one with the minimum of fuss and bother. In an age obsessed by introspection I may be out of step, but it’s nonetheless a strategy that has served me perfectly well.

Until this morning, when the letter came—one glimpse of that distinctive handwriting enough to conjure her out of the darkness again, tentatively smiling that pearly smile of hers.

More in apprehension than hope, I tore the envelope open. Inside, a birthday card!... see more

It happened on a dazzling spring day in April. One that had in every other way been quite unremarkable. Monday mornings were always a hurried affair, the alarm at seven summoning each of us from our beds to make our preparations for the coming day.

In the year since I had moved in with Annie, my attempts to introduce some order into the household had made little impression. As usual, the sink was still stacked with dirty plates from our supper the night before. We had barely embarked on breakfast before the milk ran out, and as we ate there was once again no indication that Dan, Annie’s twelve-year-old son, was... see more

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Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for Deceptions includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Rebecca Frayn. 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.


Julian and Annie have just announced their upcoming marriage, when the unthinkable occurs—Annie’s son, Dan, disappears on his way home from school. An intense search is conducted, but Dan has vanished. Determined to remain optimistic, Annie sees her son’s face everywhere she goes, and she tells her younger daughter, Rachel, that her brother has simply gone away on a long trip. As the weeks turn into months, and months into years, Julian urges Annie to move on, longing for the woman he once knew and loved. But Annie refuses to give up hope. Three years later, her faith seems to pay off when Dan reappears. As the family adapts to the return of their son and brother, who is now a stranger, Julian can’t ignore the doubts festering in his mind, causing him to question everything he thinks he knows.

Questions and Topics for Discussion

1. At the beginning of the novel, Annie proclaims, “We’re just a perfectly average happy family, aren’t we?” (p. 19) Do Julian&rsquo see more

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