> Skip to content

Book clubs  •  24 October 2022


Fanatic Heart book club questions

A little bit fiction, a little bit fact – Fanatic Heart surprises readers as Tom Keneally puts a new spin on these characters and ideas.

A retelling of the life and exploits of Irish patriot John Mitchel, with a particular focus on his time in exile on Van Diemen’s Land, Fanatic Heart will captivate readers and make for a lively book club discussion.

Discussion points and questions

  • Why are you drawn to historical fiction, and what are the major qualities of successful historical fiction? Do these novels ever lead you to go to the source and read the pertinent non-fiction?
  • What responsibility to the original story does an author carry when they choose a real person as the lead actor in their fiction?
  • The fabled Irish patriot, John Mitchel, is an extraordinary character. He lived a very large, and complicated life. In his author’s note, Tom Keneally alludes to some of the difficulties of tackling a character whose opinions on subjects as large as enfranchisement and slavery differ greatly from that of the author. How well has he carried that off?
  • Jenny Mitchel followed her husband from Ireland to Van Diemen’s Land to North America and back to Ireland. Travelling with a growing family. It is almost impossible to imagine how challenging that must have been. Can you put yourself in her place?
  • What do you think of Mitchel’s theory that the farmers of Ireland, who had no access to land ownership or an independent income, were worse off than the slaves of North America?
  • It was the liberation of Ireland, an Irish outcome, that drove all of Mitchel’s activities, regardless of which country he was residing in. Is this a fervour you can sympathise with? Does it ameliorate some of his behaviours and beliefs?
  • Van Diemen’s Land, for deposited convicts, is described in an almost idyllic way in Fanatic Heart. Does this fit with your former ideas of life for convicts in Van Diemen’s Land?

Haven't read it yet? Check out this extract.

Feature Title

Fanatic Heart
You don’t need me to tell you Keneally is a brilliant storyteller, but with Fanatic Heart he proves it once again. ARTS HUB 'The novel's resonance for our time is deafening.' THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD A retelling of the life and exploits of Irish patriot John Mitchel, with a particular focus on his time in exile on Van Diemen’s Land.
Read more

More features

See all
Book clubs
The Dickens Boy book club notes

Transport your book club to 1860s Australia, with Tom Keneally's The Dickens Boy.

Book clubs
The Ink Stain book club notes

Bring Tom and Meg Keneally’s unlikely sleuths into your book club fold.

Book clubs
Napoleon’s Last Island book club notes

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

Exclusive audiobook content that will inspire you to read more than ever before

Love audiobooks? They’re even better with extra content! Check out some of the audiobooks that include exclusive recorded content for even more enjoyment.

Catch these authors at Australia’s biggest writers festivals this May

Find out which Penguin Random House authors will be attending writers festivals in Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney this May.

Award-winning and shortlisted books of 2022

Discover the best Penguin Random House books of 2022 with this list of award-winning and shortlisted titles this year.

50 years of greatness

Notes on the incredible life and career of Tom Keneally.

Book clubs
The Little Clothes book club questions

A humorous, provocative and affectionate novel to read with your book club.

Book clubs
The Lyrebird Lake Ladies Choir book club questions

A lyrical, deeply moving story to read with your book club.

Book clubs
Psykhe book club questions

A new twist on a Greek myth that gives voice, power and agency to the woman at the centre of the story.

Book clubs
The Studio Girls book club Questions

A sumptuous, nostalgic book about the Golden Age of cinema to read with your book club

Book clubs
The Cryptic Clue book club questions

The second book in The Tea Ladies series is a fun mystery to read with your book club.

Looking for more book club notes?

See all book club notes