Five bells by Gail Jones: book club discussion questions

A reminder for those who have not read Five bells: our book club discussion questions often contain spoilers.

Five bells cover

The novel’s structure is more fragmented than, for example, a work with a single protagonist. How does this fragmentation let the author express her themes? Is this a novel at all, or a collection of vignettes?

How did the book balance plot with description? Were you comfortable with the book’s pace? Did you enjoy the style of the writing?

All of the action occurs in a single day, so the reader only sees a narrow slice of the life of each character. Did this feel this left you with a snapshot of the characters, or did you want to see how their stories resolved themselves?

A lot of reviews, and even the cover of the book, say this is a book about four characters, but there is clearly a fifth character. What are your impressions of her role in the story?

Which was the most resonant symbol in the book, for you? Why? How does it connect to your own experiences? What does it make you remember?

Do the shifts in plot in Chapter Six come out of nowhere, or do you feel they arise naturally from the rest of the narrative?

Did you prefer one of the narrators more than the others? Was a there a particular narrator you wanted to hurry along so you could get back to one of the others?

How do you feel the poem and the story connect?