This reading group guide forThe First Affairincludes discussion questions and ideas for enhancing your book club. 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.
Topics & Questions for Discussion
1. Early on, Brooke tries to give Jamie some advice about how to conduct herself professionally, saying, “Being charming….doesn’t inspire confidence.” Do you agree? Do you think that the same statement applies to men as it does for women?
2. Is Jamie a victim? What responsibility does she bear?
3. In what ways does Jamie take after her mother? Do you think that the scandal brings her closer to Erica and to her father? Consider how the dynamics and alliances within Jamie’s family evolve as the narrative progresses.
4. As you were reading, who did you suspect divulged Jamie’s secret?
5. Discuss the connection that Jamie and Greg shared. How mutual was it? Do you think it ever evolved out of lust to love?
6. To what extent did you feel that Jamie’s experience with Mike shaped her perception of how romantic relationships are conducted?
7. What do you think the novel is saying about the relationship between power and sex?
8. Discuss the gifts that Jamie and Greg exchange. How do these items take on a larger significance for each character? What are they able to convey that other words or actions cannot?
9. Although she is referenced throughout the novel, we never meet Susan, the First Lady. Did you think of her while you were reading? Discuss why or why not.
10. Consider Jean, the President’s secretary. Did you see her as an enabler, or was she simply following orders?
11. Did you agree with Jamie’s decision to not reveal that Greg was having a panic attack the night that they first kissed? Did this affect your ultimate view of her character?
12. Did the epilogue leave you feeling differently about Jamie and the President than you otherwise would have? Does knowing their future ultimately affect how you view their affair?
Enhance Your Book Club
In the epilogue, an older Jamie reflects, “It’s so silly, the things you think will matter at twenty-two. And so earth-shattering, the things you think won’t” (p. 236). Consider yourself at twenty-two. Can you think of an example of each?
Consider reading Mimi Alford’s memoir, Once Upon a Secret: My Affair with President John F. Kennedy and Its Aftermath, as a group. Despite the different eras in which Mimi and Jamie’s relationships transpire, are there elements of their experiences that feel similar? To what extent do they feel different?
The number of political affairs revealed in recent years is staggering, but none has topped the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Why do you think this particular story still holds so much fascination in the national consciousness?