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Reading Group Guide

Discussion Questions

Kingston by Starlight: A Novel

1. The narrator notes that though real names are rarely if ever used on the William, the assumed names by which her crewmates are known are more expressive of their various characters. She herself changes the name she uses for the captain throughout the book; at times he is "the captain," at others Calico, Rackam, or John. What does this say about the character of their relationship at these times? The name "Anne Bonny" is only revealed near the end of the book. Do you think this is the narrator's real name?

2. It is clear that much of society disapproves of Anne's father's marriage, her mother's position, and her own appearance and background. How does Anne herself feel about these things?

3. How does Anne's experience on the slave ship affect her? When her father rejects her, does she fully understand why?

4. Anne's reluctance to enter into prostitution to earn a living is understandable--but she doesn't appear to regard murder as a similar breach of "virtue." Why do you think this is? When faced with a choice essentially between piracy and prostitution, what is it about piracy that appeals to her?

5. What role does spirituality play in the story? Discuss Bishop's biblical "quotes," Zayd's prayerful meditation, the "Praying Mantises" on the slave ship, and Read's growing superstition as examples of the role of faith in the characters. What opinion does the narrator have of religion?

6. From time to time, the storyteller seems to interact in a very real way with her audience--in requesting and then sharing refreshment, for example--but at the end of the book it is less clear that her audience is a living person. To whom is she relating her narrative?

7. Is Read and Bonn's relationship more like the friendship of two women or of two men? Their mutual affection is largely a result of the extraordinary experience they have in common, but how much do they actually share--in terms of character, experience, and gender identity? By the end of the novel, have their personalities become more alike or more unalike?

8. Discuss Anne's relationship with Calico Jack Rackam. What attracts her to him, and vice versa? What do you think of her reaction to the story of his alleged affair with the Governor's daughter? Is her lack of jealousy a sign of faltering affection, or merely a world-wise acceptance? How long do you think their relationship might have endured if they had lived peacefully in their new home instead of setting out again?

9. What is the nature of Anne's passion for men? Does it have at its root a search for a father figure? Or is it merely the romantic feelings of a young woman? What else do you think might be at work in her desire not only to learn about men, but to live as a man among men?

10. Is the revelation that Zed is Anne's true father a surprising one? Others have clearly known or suspected all along--has Anne truly been blind to the fact that she has African blood? How does her experience contrast with the much-repeated story about the pirate De Graff and Zayd's revelation of De Graff's true identity?

11. What does the narrator learn through the course of her story? Is she wise at the end of it, or merely experienced?

Kingston by Starlight: A Novel
by Christopher John Farley

  • Publication Date: June 28, 2005
  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Three Rivers Press
  • ISBN-10: 1400082455
  • ISBN-13: 9781400082452