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Book club questions are not just for book clubs! Good questions can help a reader delve into their responses to a novel and explore a book at a deeper level. They serve to broaden our perspective, to consider aspects of the writing we might otherwise miss, and to reflect on themes.
Whilst most people read the questions AFTER they have finished the book, I like to keep them in mind WHILE reading the book. It’s a whole different experience.
Go ahead. Try it!

  • Is Black Randall an appropriate title for this novel? What else would you have called it?

  • "It is good, says Ol’ Ma. It is all good."

    • Do you agree with this viewpoint of life?

  • Why and how do you think John survived when so many didn’t? To what do you attribute his resilience? How important was luck?

  • Values have changed dramatically since John’s lifetime. Does this impact how you judge him?

  • To what extent did you / could you empathise with John? Did you like him?

  • In one section, Caesar says to John, ‘You’ll never be one of them. You think they remember who fed them when we were all starving? You think they give a damn about you? Nah, you and me and John Martin here, we’ll always be the nigger slave. And when you’re down on your luck, they’ll forget you ever drew breath.’

    • Do you agree with Caesar

  • Do you think John deserves to be remembered?

  • ‘We have chosen different ways, John, you, and I. You seek to join them. I try to escape them. Each of us just trying to get from under ’em.’

    • Were either of them successful?

  • Who do you admire most and why?

  • ‘But their complaints caused a war. And Britain lost. And do you know how many soldiers and sailors were laid off after that? Thousands. No money to live on. No choice but to beg or steal. Is it no wonder the prisons burst at the seams and we couldn’t ship ’em off to the American colonies like we did in the past? England needed a solution and so, here we are.

    • One of the premises of the book is that it is a small world, and we are all linked. To what extent do you agree with this?

  • How do you feel about the ending? What did you like? What would you change?

  • The author apologises to John in a letter to him. ‘I thought to honour you… I have hijacked your identity in the process.’

  • What do you think John might have thought about this book?

  • There are many speculations, often contradictory, on John’s life: how he escaped, how he got to England, who his partners were. The author acknowledges this. However, can she be accused of spreading a false history?

  • Did the book alter your perspective on John, his life, and what it might have been like to live in Colonial times?

  • If the book were to be adapted into a movie, who would you cast as the main characters?

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