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Book clubs  •  3 September 2019


Wild book club notes

Take your book club on a journey into the criminal underbelly of 17th century London.

Wild is a delightfully outrageous period drama that charts the rise and fall and rise again of Daniel Defoe and Jonathan Wild, two men whose lives become intertwined in the most surprising of ways. Use the questions below to get the conversation flowing at your next book club gathering.

Discussion points and questions:

  • What's to like about Jonathan Wild? And what you do you perceive as his flaws?
  • What's to like about Daniel Defoe? And what you do you perceive as his flaws?
  • What do you make of Jack Sheppard?
  • The tale of Jonathan Wild has been told many times, including by John Gay in The Beggar’s Opera and Henry Fielding in Jonathan Wild. It exemplifies the British culture of enterprise, class and ruthlessness. Nathan Besser has created his own idiom for his version of this story. Did this language and fictional take, in concert, work for you?
  • What other period books do you think use language as an effective scene-setting tool?
  • How do you feel about the rewriting of history in contemporary novels?
  • 'Some estimate the crowd at Jonathan Wild's execution in 1725 to have been 100,000. If true, this indicates that one in every six Londoners was present to witness his death' – James Byron. The career of Jonathan Wild, as told in Wild and other renditions, is perhaps the first detailed example of ‘organised crime’. From Al Capone to Bonny and Clyde and our own Ned Kelly, why do we continue to return to the stories of notorious criminals?
  • Nathan Besser was steeped in his fascination of Jonathon’s Wild bold ambition and underhand business behaviours, trying to understand the motivations of a Georgian era bounty hunter. Then, in late 2015, Donald Trump announced his presidential aspirations, and the writing flowed. Here was a flamboyant, rebarbative entrepreneur. Pride, commerce, self-interest and struggle brimmed. As much as politicians were lying to the people, people were lying to themselves. And in the midst of the chaos, if you were clever and despicable enough, you could get to the top. Has the world ever been thus?
  • Who are the heroes of Wild?

Wild Nathan Besser

An absolute romp, lead by Daniel Defoe and Jonathan Wild, through the criminal underbelly of thriving 17th century London.

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