Book Club Discussion Questions Developed by Larry Sells
1. The novel opens with an open-air meeting of the All-Patriotic Society, which leads to the need for Hulan to shoot a mother to protect her daughter’s life. Why is this incident so painful to Hulan? How does this scene affect everything that Hulan does throughout the rest of the story?
2. In all the Red Princess novels, David and Hulan seek a love that can bridge widely different cultures and values. How does this tension play out in Dragon Bones? To what extent are the two successful in dealing with their different cultures and experiences? To what extent are they unsuccessful?
3. Losing a child is the worst thing that can happen to parents. How does Chaowen’s death affect Hulan? David? The relationship between them?
4. There is an ancient Chinese belief that holds true even today that he who controls China’s water controls the country and its people. In what ways does Lisa use water—in all forms—in the novel? Are there instances when it is benevolent, violent, powerful, weak, revealing, or secretive?
5. What was the importance of archaeology during Chairman Mao’s time? What is it during the time of the novel?
6. The novel raises the question of who should own Chinese antiquities. How would you answer this question? The Chinese government? The archaeologists who make the finds? Some sort of shared ownership? Why do you respond as you do?
7. What is the Site 518 ruyi? What are the different reasons that various characters in the novel want to possess it?
8. In terms of political views only, the All-Patriotic Society represents a defense of the old ways against the movement toward a China that is both capitalistic and industrial. From what you know about China today, which is the better way for that country? What if you consider China’s relationship with the U.S.?
9. We live in a country that believes in freedom of speech and freedom of religion. How do you think our country would deal with a group like the All-Patriotic Society?
10. Lisa has chosen to write some very gruesome murder scenes. Why do you think she did that and in what ways do they help (or hurt) the story?
11. What is the importance of the Three Gorges Dam project to the plot of Dragon Bones? What is the relationship between the massive dam construction and the archaeological sites nearby? What about the people who live in those areas? How do you weigh the benefits with the drawbacks and potential dangers the dam presents? Did this novel change the way you think about the dam or dams in general?
12. Of the three Red Princess novels, Dragon Bones makes most use of the trapped heroine (Hulan) rescued by hero (David) pattern. What are some of the ways Lisa makes this old narrative pattern come alive for the reader?
13. Does the beginning of the healing process that begins for David and Hulan at the end of the novel seem convincing to you? Why or why not? What do you think they’re doing now?