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Book club questions

Fire on Dark Water book cover

1. “What fates impose, that men must needs abide; It boots not to resist both wind and tide” – Discuss the role of fate. At what point does Lola Blaise become proactive in her own destiny?

2. Share your thoughts about the title, Fire on Dark Water.

3. “Life isn’t kind . . . neither is she.” Is Lola Blaise a sympathetic or likable character?

4. How does the book change your perception of pirates? Does this portrayal of Anne Bonny align with what you have read about her in the past?

5. What was the most intriguing or appealing aspect of a life “on the account”? What type of men and women were drawn to this dangerous lifestyle? Is there any correlation with the modern day pirates of Somalia?

6. Which specific elements make Fire on Dark Water a literary novel, rather than a romance?

7. Share your thoughts regarding the two pirate ladies’ men – Calico Jack Rackham and Blackbeard. Are they depicted fairly? How much of their image is filtered through Lola’s potentially - biased narrative?

8. In this era women were often treated as sexual commodities. How do Lola and Anne respond to male expectations? In what ways do they exploit and subvert the patriarchy?

9. Are modern day attitudes towards gypsies any more enlightened than in the Eighteenth Century?

10. School children are taught about the African-American slave trade. Were you aware of the white slave trade that preceded this practice? Why might this aspect of colonial history be given less emphasis in the general curriculum?

11. Were there any aspects of the novel that you found particularly disturbing?

12. “Fact is, there’ll always and ever be war as long as there are two men and one desirable tract of land – or woman – left.” Do you agree with Lola’s assessment of human nature? Or are there other factors that might explain piracy and war?

13. To what extent might Fire on Dark Water be read as a novel about privilege, class and social status? How is the pirate democracy different? And in which ways is it similar?

14. Lola questions how “ even the ugliest king has lovers lining up to bed him.” Why are so many women attracted to bad-boy characters like Blackbeard? Share your thoughts and observations.

15. Mary Reed successfully passed herself off as a male sailor, even fooling Anne Bonny. Discuss the practical difficulties in carrying out such a deception on board a crowded ship.

16. Lola complains that women are “sold on dreams of the happy forever” – unrealistic notions of love. Do you agree? How does this novel challenge the traditional view of love?

17. If “ it wasn’t prize or power that drove Teach,” what do you think may have motivated Blackbeard to become the “ Terror of the Seas”?

18. Consider the relationship between Lola and Anne. What was Anne’s opinion of Lola? Why did Lola remain loyal to her? Is there any suggestion of genuine regard or friendship between these two central characters?

19. How does Lola’s first - person narrative draw the reader into the story? Was the pirate dialogue effective in helping to recreate the historical period?

20. Why does the author introduce Daniel Defoe into the narrative? What historical importance does he have? What does his inclusion add to this novel?

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