Image: Promotional Image for ABC's TV Book Club Show (Source ABC)
Many things book clubs discuss often provide new insights into the book, as every reader sees a different aspect of the work. This can result from how the book is read (in one sitting, over many months, the reader's mood, etc.), but it can also, perhaps more meaningfully, be how the reader's personal experiences parallel those in the book.
At the risk of going too deep too soon, I believe a book is similar to the river that the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus described when he said, "no one ever steps into the same river twice". It is a wonderful thing that everyone's impression of a book is always different. Today, more so than ever, diversity of thought is something that we need to recognise as valuable and cherish.
Image: Hecalitus attributed to sculptor Giacamo Antonio Ponsonelli (Source Sotheby's auction house).
A book club discussion is a great forum to discuss your insights into a book you have read and compare it to the impression that others have. I can guarantee that no one will ever have the same response to a good book.
I have offered some prompts that might catalyse this sort of discussion for my book, 'Darwin's Wake', but the prompts are universally applicable. Feel free to use the discussion prompts as you wish.
If your Book Club is fortunate enough to be located in Perth, Western Australia, I'd love to join your discussion on 'Darwin's Wake'.
Image: Books and wine, a great combination. (Source: Mockingbird Lounge Book Club)
1. Character Development
How did the characters evolve throughout the story? Were their changes believable and significant? Could you identify what initiated these changes?
Which character did you like the most, and why?
Which character did you dislike the most, and why?
2. Themes and Symbols:
What central themes did the book explore, and how were they developed?
Were there specific themes that were more meaningful to you?
Were there any symbols or metaphors that added depth to the story? What do you think the author was trying to convey with these?
Image: Brain and heart connected (Source: The Guardian)
3. Narrative Style:
How did the author's writing style contribute to your reading experience?
Did the narrative structure (e.g., multiple perspectives, non-linear storytelling) enhance or detract from the story?
Did you feel the characters' perspectives provided additional insight into their motivations?
4. Conflict and Resolution:
What were the main conflicts in the book, and how were they resolved?
Were any conflicts left unresolved? Did these keep you thinking after completing the book, or was it annoying?
5. Setting and Atmosphere:
How did the setting and atmosphere contribute to the story's mood and tone?
Could the story have taken place in a different time or place and still had the same impact?
Image: A Darwin Sunset, Mindil Beach (Source: Pete Mitchell)
6. Moral and Ethical Dilemmas:
Did 'Darwin's Wake' present too many moral and ethical dilemmas?
How did the characters handle them? Did this seem like a realistic response from the character?
Did any character's choices challenge your own moral beliefs or values?
7. Character Relationships:
How did relationships between characters influence the story's progression?
Were there any complex or unusual relationships that stood out?
Could the author have drawn on more characters to add complexity?
Image: Too many questions? (Source: Google images)
8. Author's Intent:
What do you think the author was trying to convey or explore through this book?
Do you think the author's background or experiences shaped the narrative?
Does this author (or the story) remind you of any others? What aspects guide your decision?
9. Foreshadowing and Twists:
Were there any instances of foreshadowing or unexpected plot twists that surprised you? Were any plot changes too predictable or cliche?
How did these elements affect your reading experience?
Image: The River Book Club Lake Macquarie (Source: Google and LMBC)
10. Social and Cultural Context:
In what ways did the book reflect the social or cultural context of its setting?
Were there relevant issues or events from the real world that influenced the story? Are any of these issues still current?
Did the book change your perspective or influence your thoughts or actions?
Did the book provide any thoughts on how these issues might be resolved?
11. Emotional Impact:
What emotions did the book evoke in you? Did the book elicit a strong reaction or make you see things from a new perspective?
Were there particular scenes that stood out in terms of emotional impact?
Image: Stuck into a book (Source: Reedsy)
12. Character Motivations:
Why do you think the characters made the choices they did? How did their motivations drive the plot?
Were there moments where you disagreed with a character's decisions, or did you find their choices relatable? Did you find yourself hoping the character would make a particular choice? How did you feel if they went in a different direction?
13. The Title and Cover:
How does the title and cover art relate to the story? Do they accurately represent the book's content? Does the cover give you a good sense of the genre and where you might find it on a shelf in a bookshop?
These questions should provide a solid foundation for engaging and thoughtful discussions in your book club. Remember that open-ended questions often lead to the most enriching conversations, allowing members to explore their unique interpretations and insights.
Image: Darwin's Wake, Pete Mitchell. (Source, the author)