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  1. Book ImageThe Love She Left Behind: A Novel

    Amanda Coe

    A bitingly comic exploration of an unforgettably dysfunctional family, from a writer who wields great "comic rhythm" (The New Yorker). This ferociously funny family saga journeys into the mysteries of many kinds of love.

Discussion Questions

  1. The book opens after Sara has died from stomach cancer. According to Patrick, once she received a prognosis the cancer was already in a late stage. Nigel and Louise wonder if Patrick and Sara knew about it but did not tell them on purpose. Do you think Sara withheld information? Do you think Patrick knew? Why or why not?
  2. The author writes the story from the perspectives of three different narrators: Nigel, Louise, and Mia. What do we get from their separate insights? How do their thoughts and their perceptions of the others inform the reader’s understanding?
  3. The relationship between artist and muse is present in the relationship between Patrick and Sara and, later on, between Patrick and Mia. How do these relationships differ from the archetypal artist/muse trope? In what ways are Mia and Sara’s relationships to Patrick similar, and in what ways are they different?
  4. Are there any comparisons you can draw between Sara’s love affair with Patrick and Holly’s infatuation with her boyfriend Nish?
  5. What do you think Sara’s note meant? What might it reveal about who she was and her relationship to Patrick?
  6. Nigel reveals that before Sara left to be with Patrick, she asked Nigel, then a child, what she should do and let him decide. At the end of the book, the reader also learns that Sara let Nigel make the decision about who would receive tuition for school—himself, Louise, or neither. Do you think Nigel made the right decisions? Do you think Sara would have acted differently if Nigel had decided otherwise?
  7. How do Nigel and Louise’s different upbringings reflect who they are as adults? In what ways does their behavior reflect the absence of their mother?
  8. Patrick’s play Bloody Empire gains acclaim from critics for its commentary on the Falklands War, but he insists it’s not a political commentary. Do you see his critical acclaim as real or merely circumstantial? Do you think he is a talented playwright? Do you think his lack of critical success for anything else changed Sara’s perception of him?
  9. When Patrick’s friends visit, Mia is reminded of her father telling her, “You never know what really goes on inside a marriage” (page 181). What do you think was holding Sara and Patrick’s relationship together? Mia and Patrick’s?
  10. The Love She Left Behind explores the concept of family and “ties that bind.” How did Sara handle her responsibilities as a mother? What do you think caused her to leave her children?
  11. In the story Sara wrote, who was she thinking about when she described what it felt like to fall in love? Do you think it was with Patrick or someone else? How much was Sara aligning herself with the protagonist?

About Amanda Coe

Amanda Coe is a screenwriter and filmmaker whose television credits include the British series Shameless. She is the author of a collection of stories, A Whore in the Kitchen, and the novels The Love She Left Behind and What They Do in the Dark. She lives in London with her husband and two children.

Books by Amanda Coe

  1. Book CoverThe Love She Left Behind: A Novel

    A bitingly comic exploration of an unforgettably dysfunctional family, from a writer who wields great "comic rhythm" (The New Yorker). This ferociously funny family saga journeys into the mysteries of many kinds of love.More

  2. Book CoverWhat They Do in the Dark: A Novel

    “A terrific debut, full of energy and colour, as propulsive as a thriller.”—GuardianMore