BOOK CLUB DISCUSSION QUESTIONS
Here are twenty sets of questions to stimulate discussion about Lies That Blind among your book club and/or friends:
1. What did you think was the significance of the title, Lies That Blind? To what extent was it meaningful to you? Why or why not? If not, what title might you have chosen instead?
2. Were you immediately drawn into the story and Jim’s dilemma, or did it take a while for you to get into it?
3. How did the novel make you feel about the British East India Company with respect to possessing another culture’s land?
4. Which character did you most relate to, and why?
5. What motivation do you think the three main characters: Jim, Light, and Pieter, share?
6. What were your impressions of Francis Light: Con man, just overly optimistic as to what he would be able to achieve, or something else? What did you think of his treatment of the Sultan of Queda?
7. Which of Jim or Light’s actions did you disagree with? What would you have done differently?
8. Do you agree with Martinha’s assessment of her husband’s actions: that as the man responsible for making something of Penang, the Sultan of Queda now had no rights over the island?
9. What did you make of Martinha and Light’s relationship? Purely transactional, or a true love affair?
10. Did you guess Pieter’s “secret” before it was revealed to Jim?
11. What emotions did Pieter evoke in you? Did that change as you read the book?
12. How did you feel about the relationship between Jim and Martina, and Jim and William?
13. Tuan Nakhoda Ismail’s character is based on the autobiography of Munshi Abdullah Bin Abdul Kadir (1797-1854), a Malaccan Tamil, entitled The Hikayat Abdullah. Does knowing that ease any concerns you might have about a white woman writing Malay characters?
14. Laura, Jim’s long-time love interest, plays only a minor part in the story. Would you have liked to see more mention of her throughout the novel?
15. Which of the characters in the book would you most like to meet? Why?
16. What parallels can you see between then and now? Would the same plot work if the time was changed to the 21st century? Why or why not?
17. What chapter or scene resonated with you the most on a personal level? Why was this, and how did it make you feel?
18. How did you feel about the ending? What, if anything, remained unresolved, in your view?
19. Did you read the short story Jim had written about Light’s childhood act of vandalism at school, at the end of the novel? If so, did you feel differently about Francis Light afterwards?
20. Overall, what one thing did you learn—about the time period, the Malay culture, Penang, or anything else—from reading this novel?
My thanks for their inspiration in compiling these questions go to Michelle Boudin on Signupgenius.com, and Ilovelibraries.org.
Bonus question: If you were talk with me about the novel, what would you want to know? If you would like to discuss the possibility of me joining your book club on Zoom or some other virtual platform, please contact me at: email@example.com