The Black Sun- suggested topics for reading groups
The following questions are intended to act as conversation starters or as areas around which your reading group might want to focus their discussion. Hopefully, they will make your experience of reading The Black Sun even better:
1. As a reader, it is often natural to empathise with and root for the hero. Tom Kirk, however, has spent most of his life on the wrong side of the law and has lied, stolen and killed people. Did this apparent paradox make you feel in any way guilty or uncomfortable and if not, why not?
2. How important is Tom’s relationship with his father as a motivating factor for his actions. How does Tom’s relationship with his father differ from Dominique’s? How does Dominique’s revelations about her past change Tom’s perception of her, his father and ultimately, himself?
3. The Black Sun is loosly based on the story of the Hungarian Gold Train and the bizarre goings-on by the SS at Wewelsburg Castle. Why do you think it is that, over sixty years on, people remain fascinated and repelled by the Nazis in almost equal measure.
4. How sensitively did the novel deal with the issue of racism, Nazism and the Holocaust? Are these legitimate topics for a thriller to deal with?
5. The Nazis used to decide which works of art they were going to loot and destroy at the same time as they were forming their invasion plans, believing that art was a powerful weapon in their struggle to reshape Europe’s cultural heritage along Aryan lines. What is the cultural significance of art in your opinion? What role can it play in shaping a sense of national identity? What can you hope to achieve by destroying art?
6. Many works of art taken by the Soviets in their march on Berlin remain locked in storerooms and depositories to this day. Should these be restituted to their rightful owners or put on display at the very least or are the Russians right to claim them in lieu of reparations?
7. What motivates Tom Kirk to co-operate with Viktor? Does this change as the book progresses?
8. How would you describe Viktor? What clues to her character do we get when we first meet her? How did your perception of her change as the book progressed?
9. Who/what is you favourite artist or painting? If you could steal one thing and get away with it, what would it be and why?
10. If you could spend a day in any of the places described in this novel, where would it be, and why? Prague, St Petersburg, The Hermitage Museum, the Austrian Tyroll, the old town in Zurich? Somewhere else?
11. How would you describe the narratorial voice in the book. Intrusive, anonymous, fair?
12. What is interesting about the way this story is told? How are the episodes of the novel arranged and linked? In your discussion, you might want to identify the turning points in the action. Did you anticipate them?
13. What is the novel’s theme? Is there a central message or idea that links all the other components of the novel together?
14. The historical events described in the book, including the story of the Gold Train, Wewelsburg Castle and the existence of the Black Sun are all true. Does having a real historical background change your enjoyment or perception of the book?
15. Has reading the book made you want to find out more about the historical events described in the book or any of the featured art works?