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On Java Road Reader’s Guide

By Lawrence Osborne

On Java Road by Lawrence Osborne


1. How does On Java Road speak to the political situation in Hong Kong? How does this experience differ from what we might otherwise learn from the news?
2. Discuss the meaning of Izaac Walton’s The Compleat Angler, the book that Jimmy receives from his father as a young man. What does the book signify throughout the novel?
3. Describe the three major relationships in the book: Jimmy and Rebecca; Jimmy and Adrian; Adrian and Rebecca. What does each pairing have in common? Where do they differ? How would you characterize the dynamic among the three of them?
4. Adrian Gyle often refers to himself as a “hack” journalist or a non-entity. Locals refer to him as a gwailo, or a “white ghost.” How do this influence Adrian’s sense of purpose in Hong Kong? How does this “identity” influence his later actions?
5. What role does journalism play throughout the novel?
6. “To say ‘If we burn, you burn,’ was thrilling for the moment but it probably wasn’t going to be true,” Adrian Gyle writes of the protestors. “They were going to burn and the government would not burn at all. It would thrive.” Do you agree with this? How does this sentiment embody the overall tone of the novel?
7. How do themes of money and power play out in the book?
8. Does Adrian’s friendship with Jimmy help or hurt him when it comes to seeing the truth about “Terrible Tang”? Do you think Adrian could have done more when it came to investigating Rebecca’s disappearance? Why or why not?
9. “A way of life was disappearing and therefore (not being in any way exceptional) I was bound to disappear with it,” Adrian says. Discuss what he means by this, and how it represents the larger themes of the book.
10. What did you think of the end of the book, including Jimmy and Adrian’s final meeting? What do you imagine really happened to Rebecca?
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