#BibliomaniacBookClub #FierceKingdom #GinPhillips


Published by Penguin 15th June 2017

An electrifying novel about the primal and unyielding bond between a mother and her son, and the lengths she'll go to protect him.

The zoo is nearly empty as Joan and her four-year-old son soak up the last few moments of playtime. They are happy, and the day has been close to perfect. But what Joan sees as she hustles her son toward the exit gate minutes before closing time sends her sprinting back into the zoo, her child in her arms. And for the next three hours--the entire scope of the novel--she keeps on running.

Suddenly, mother and son are as trapped as the animals. Joan's intimate knowledge of this place that filled early motherhood with happy diversions--the hidden pathways and under-renovation exhibits, the best spots on the carousel and overstocked snack machines--is all that keeps them a step ahead of danger.

A masterful thrill ride and an exploration of motherhood itself--from its tender moments of grace to its savage power--Fierce Kingdom asks where the boundary is between our animal instinct to survive and our human duty to protect one another. For whom should a mother risk her life?

Read my review here.

Bibliomaniac's Book Club Questions - Fierce Kingdom:

What do you think of the title? Why do you think the author chose this title? Can you think of another title that might be as effective? 

What did you think about the location of this novel?

Phillips says "No other subject [apart from motherhood] is so compelling or complex". What do you think about Joan as a mother? How did you respond to her relationship with Lincoln?

"This novel the way we are bound together whether we are strangers or family." (Phillips) Look at the different relationships between the other characters - Mrs Powell, and Robby, Kailynn and Joan, Joan and Mrs Powell. What might the author be trying to say about these relationships and the bonds formed between these people? How is the relationship between Lincoln and Joan used to highlight differences between the other relationships in the novel? 

The novel starts at 4.55pm and finishes at 8.05. It lasts 273 pages. This could almost represent 'real time'. Did you think this was effective? 

This novel is about dilemmas and choices. Think about some of the choices Joan makes. Could she have done anything differently? How do her choices affect her as the novel continues? 

What did you think about Lincoln's character? Did he feel an authentic four year old? 

Kailynn and Joan are very contrasting characters. In what ways do they contrast and why is this? Is Kailynn "heroic" or simply "mindless"?

Margaret says that when the children come to her she "sees which direction they are headed, usually, and there is nothing she can do about it......" page 206. What do you think about this statement? What is the novel saying about nature / nurture and the role of education and teachers? 

What do you think the author was hoping to achieve by including the viewpoint of Robby? How did you feel towards him as a character?

Fierce Kingdom is about how you behave under pressure and how perhaps you don't behave in a way you thought you might. Can you find some examples of this in Joan's behaviour? And in the other characters?

Do you think you would make the same choices as Joan? What might you do if you were in this situation?

Would you read another book by this author?

Quotes to start a discussion about Fierce Kingdom:

"She looks down at his [text] message and the oblivious black font of it is intolerable." 

"There are a million of these threads between them, brain to brain, and the threads tell her when he is getting hungry and when he is about to cry, and they tell her that he will like the idea of using marshmallows for a tiny astronaut's boots.........The thread leads her to him." 

"Her father was the sort of boy who should have turned into a psychopath - that's what people say isn't it? That when you torture animals, it means you will be a serial killer? But he turned into her father and there is no meanness in him." 

"He hopes what comes next is nothing. That is the most beautiful thing." [Robby]

"That is one problem with being around other people: someone is always talking. Someone is always complicating things." [Joan]

"That is what you do when you have a child, isn't it, open yourself up to unimaginable pain and then try to pretend away the possibilities." 

"She would be selfless if she were alone."

What props could you use to start a conversation about this novel?
  • zoo animals 
  • a map of the zoo / leaflet about a zoo
  • newspaper articles about gun crime  / teenagers and guns
  • a mobile phone 
  • a sippy cup

Where could you hold your book club meeting for this novel?
  • a zoo
  • behind the counter at a cafe
  • a carpark 
What drinks and snacks could you serve?
  • A collection of drinks and snacks from a vending machine 
For more recommendations, reviews and book club questions please follow me on Twitter @KatherineSunde3 or check out the Bibliomaniac's Book Club page on my website bibliomaniacuk.co.uk


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