The Pool of Unease – Reading Groups

Questions for discussion by reading groups

1. Does the description of Beijing in this book fit with the descriptions of Beijing you’ve read elsewhere, or with the Beijing that you’ve experienced for yourself? If it’s different, how is it different, and how do you account for that difference? How do you feel about that?

2. This is a book by a British writer about a country she has lived in for sixteen or so years, but still it’s not her own country. What difference do you think that makes to the book?

3. Blue and Robin disagree. Robin says that basically people are the same all over the world. Blue, on the other hand, says that Robin has had a completely different experience of life, and cannot possibly understand what her (Blue’s) life is like. How do you feel about these two points of view? And what do you think the book says about them, if anything?

4. Robin is a British journalist, working for a western news organization, and during The Pool of Unease she begins to understand the way that the Chinese media is constrained by politics. How did this aspect of the story make you feel about your own media in your home country? How did it make you feel about China’s media?

5. The author, who is not only British, but female, is writing a lot of this book through the eyes of a male Chinese private detective. Do you think writers should attempt such leaps of the imagination, or should they stick to what they know?

6. Were you able to spot the murderer early in the plot? Were you satisfied by the unraveling of the crime?

7. What did you care most about when you read this story – was it the characters or the plot? Which character did you care the most about?

8. In many ways, The Pool of Unease is not a conventional British thriller, or crime novel. What elements of a classic crime novel did you miss? And which less conventional aspects to the novel did you enjoy. In particular what did you think of the ending, in which the reader knows more than either of the main characters?