Discussion will take place in the Health Room.

Nicolas Ramon Martinez
Hannah Peters (Facilitator)
Ethan Nightingale
Matt Woodbury
Steve Strand
Christine Oberink


Whip Questions:

Beginning - How did you like the book? or What did you care most about in the book?
Middle - How did you respond to a plot event? or What passage(s) made an impact on you?
End - What comment made today most affected your thinking? or What have you learned most about the book/the issues raised by the book today?

Ten Words or Less

This can be done as individuals or in pairs.
  • On your own or with one partner, summarize the book in ten words or less. Give everyone three minutes.
  • Share the summaries: the writer reads the summary and another participant asks a question or makes a comment in response to that summary. The writer responds and talk can open from there. Move to the next summary.
  • Commit to each summary earning one comment or question from another participant.

Discussion Questions:

- Does Ben find Stanley's personality annoying?
- What is the real reason why Ben wants to figure out this mystery and clear the name of Gordon?
- Who is the most inspiring character in this book?
- How did Ben change as a result of the events in the novel?
- How did the investigation affect Ben's family?
- Who is stealing the tools and what are they being used for?
- Why do you think Ben & Susan were married, since they seem so distant?
- What do you think actually happened to Gordon?
- What did you think of the ending?

Culture & Context:

• The story all happens because of Jonathon's death following the Soweto uprisings in 1976. What was the cause of the uprisings and what happened? (Hannah)
• What was the political situation like in South Africa during/leading up to this time period? (Hannah)
• During this time period, are the secret police often thought of as good guys or bad guys? (Ethan)
• What are some of the reasons for the racial tensions between white and black South Africans? (Ethan)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apartheid (Hannah)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apartheid_in_South_Africa (Ethan)

Pre-Discussion Processing:
  • Characters - List a significant detail for each character
- Ben Du Toit - white schoolteacher who begins to investigate Gordon's death & his wife Susan who fears the destruction of the family as a result of Ben's investigation
- Linda & Suzette - Ben & Susan's older children who worry about the consequences of the investigation, although Suzette becomes more supportive at the end, & Johan - their younger son, who blindly supports Ben's efforts
- Gordon Ngubene - black janitor at Ben's school, "commits suicide" after being detained by the Security Police for investigating his son's death
- Jonathon Ngubene - son of Gordon, arrested after Soweto uprisings and died of "natural causes" in jail
- Stanley Makhaya - black taxi driver and friend of Gordon's
- Emily Ngubene - wife of Gordon and mother of Jonathon, one of Ben's drives to finding the truth about Gordon's and Jonathon's deaths.
- Melanie Bruwer - An English reporter & friend who works with Ben to investigate Gordon's death, & her father Prof. Phil Bruwer
- Capt Stolz - Captain of the Special Branch
- Prof. Bruwer - Father of Melanie, likes to be outdoors and has some interesting talks with Ben.

  • Setting - Locations and time periods
Johannesburg and Soweto, South Africa, 1976

  • Important plot events - Choose at least 3 significant plot elements and explain their importance
- Death of Jonathan Ngubene, this event is really the beginning of the investigation that first leads Gordon to death and also to Ben.
- Trial for the death of Gordon Ngubene, Ben realizes that the system is corrupted.
- Ben realizes that he's being observed all day and sometimes attacked, this destroys his family life because Susan can't handle it.
- Ben is attacked by the gang outside Stanley's house

  • Conflicts - Identify and elaborate on the conflicts that drive the plot
- Ben's investigation into Gordon's death and his conflicts with the Special Branch
- The special branch doesn't want Ben to keep any papers about the issue and is always trying to intimidate him.
- Ben's family abandons him because they think he's taken it too far and that it's not worth it.
- Ben's internal conflict, struggling with whether to continue with the investigation at the risk of losing everything, or to give up.

  • Narration (point of view) - Describe how the telling impacts the story
The introduction is told from the point of view of a narrator, a writer and a friend of Ben's, contacted by Ben shortly before his death and asked take care of his papers about his investigation. The story then begins with the backstory of Gordon's death, narrated by the anonymous writer who introduced the story, as if it is his novel about the events. Throughout the novel, the POV switches between a narration of the events by the anonymous author and direct quotes from Ben's diaries about the events.

  • Important passages - Have at least 5 important passages on the wiki; a brief comment or question about how and why the passage is important should follow each
- "What if Suzette had had something very specific in mind when she'd questioned him so carefully, with so much studied nonchalance?" pg. 308
Suzette's (possible) ulterior motives when she suddenly supports Ben at the end of the book
- "And, whenever we passed a black man or woman or child: 'My servant.'" - pg. 240
Class/racial roles already clearly defined in childhood
- "I wanted to help. Right. I meant it very sincerely. But I wanted to do it on my terms. And I am white, they are black...." pg. 304
Ben's blindness to the racial divides as a white man, didn't realize the extent and how much it mattered.