> Skip to content

Book clubs  •  12 May 2016


Napoleon’s Last Island book club notes

Tom Keneally’s Napoleon’s Last Island – a reading group selection to remember.

While living in exile on St Helena, Napoleon exerted an extraordinary influence on young Betsy Balcombe. How did she get from Napoleon’s side to the Australian bush? On a visit to the National Gallery of Victoria, Tom Keneally discovered that Betsy Balcombe, a young girl living on St Helena while the Emperor Napoleon was living there in exile, had become Napoleon’s ‘intimate friend and annoyer’, and had later moved with her family to Australia. Keneally was compelled to begin this extraordinary novel, exploring the intersection between the ordinary people of the world and those we deem exceptional.


Reading group questions

  • Does reading fiction like Napoleon’s Last Island, which is based around factual events and people, inspire you to read more about them in history books?
  • From a writer’s point of view, what are some attractive points about the genre of historical fiction? What makes these stories appealing to readers?
  • Tom Keneally is known for creating prominent female characters. How convincingly does he portray the point of view of Betsy, and how it changes through the different stages of her life?
  • How would you respond if someone of international notoriety – be it Vladimir Putin, the Pope, the Dalai Lama or even a Kardashian – came to live in your garden?
  • Modern-day perspectives on Napoleon vary. He has many prominent admirers as well as detractors. Should the real Napoleon be regarded more as a hero or villain? Does your opinion of the real Napoleon differ to you opinion of the Napoleon in Keneally‘s novel?

More features

See all
50 years of greatness

Notes on the incredible life and career of Tom Keneally.

Book clubs
The Chase book club notes

Track down your reading group to discuss Candice Fox's latest thriller.

Book clubs
Everything Changes book club conversation starters

Stephanie Johnson shares discussion points and questions for her new book Everything Changes in this book club guide.

Book clubs
Fragile Monsters book club notes

Sweep your book club off to Malaysia with this spellbinding novel of war and family betrayal.

Book clubs
The One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot book club notes

A tale of extraordinary friendship and a lifetime of stories to share with your book club pals.

Book clubs
Thursday Murder Club book club notes

A classic whodunit for the most perceptive reading groups.

Book clubs
A Promised Land book club notes

Settle in for a memorable reading group discussion, with Barack Obama’s long-awaited memoirs: A Promised Land.

Book clubs
The Champagne War book club notes

Sweep your book club off to the sun-kissed vineyards of rural France.

Book clubs
The Silence of Snow book club conversation starters

Eileen Merriman, author of The Silence of Snow, has provided some background information on her latest book along with some discussion points for your book club meeting! 

Book clubs
The Tally Stick book club conversation starters

Carl Nixon shares some discussion points and questions for his new book The Tally Stick in this book club guide.

Book clubs
Shakti book club conversation starters

Rajorshi Chakraborti shares discussion points, ideas and questions for his new book Shakti in this book club guide. Special powers are gifted, but there is a Faustian price to pay in this epic novel, packed with laughter, darkness, pain, dreams, superpowers, love and light.

Book clubs
Scented - book club guide

Laurence Fearnley shares her process for writing Scented along with discussion points, ideas and questions for your next book club meeting. 

Looking for more book club notes?

See all book club notes