> Skip to content

Book clubs  •  25 September 2023


Black Sheep book club questions

A sweeping historical novel to read with your book club.

Black Sheep follows James Wakefield who was determined to be a shearer like his father. Now, he’s killed twice, changed his name and is on the run from the law. Ben McKinnon, meanwhile, is heir to the vast Glenfinnan sheep property near Goulburn, New South Wales. He too has a secret, that if ever revealed, would shatter the privileged lives of his family members.

When fate brings the two men together, a powerful friendship blossoms as they gladly become the keepers of each other’s secrets. But when Ben insists that James comes to work at the station, is he unwittingly adopting a Black Sheep into the McKinnon dynasty?

Discussion points and questions

  • Is James the only black sheep in the novel? Which other characters could be seen as the ‘black sheep’ of their family? How are certain moral stains passed between generations?
  • Discuss the ways ‘living a lie’ affected Ben and James in such markedly different ways.
  • What does the fob watch symbolise throughout the novel?
  • How do you think James’s life would have panned out had he not met Ben? Do you think he would have still been successful?
  • How do the tensions between the land and the city, the agricultural and the industrial, play out throughout the novel?
  • Alastair considers breeding and bloodline ‘the all-important factor’ – so how does the rise of James, ‘a mere shearer’, through the family complicate this view? Are the compromises needed to continue the family name effective?
  • How do the stories of Jenna, Delia and Emily illustrate the status of and options for women in the late nineteenth/early twentieth centuries? In what ways do each of these women navigate society differently?
  • Do you feel that Josh and Emily betray Ted? How are the themes of family duty and personal ambition, fate versus action, expressed in the novel?
  • Why do you think Josh – an academically gifted, natural businessman and innate leader – turned to corruption and war profiteering? How does his storyline reflect or conflict with the messages in the nursery rhyme ‘Baa Baa Black Sheep’?
  • Was James’s fate at the end of the book inevitable?


Interested? Start reading

Feature Title

Black Sheep
Judy Nunn's new blockbuster is a sweeping historical novel about a prosperous sheep-farming family and the enigmatic young man they let into their lives . . .
Read more

More features

See all
Book clubs
Showtime! book club notes

Let Judy Nunn take you on a scintillating journey through the golden age of Australian show business.

Book clubs
How to host a Khaki Town book group

Impress your book club with a 1940s themed party to discuss Khaki Town by Judy Nunn.

Book clubs
Khaki Town book club notes

Transport your book club to Queensland during World War II with Judy Nunn’s exciting new novel, Khaki Town.

Book clubs
Sanctuary book club notes

Discover the strength of the human spirit with your book club in Judy Nunn’s Sanctuary.

The 10 bestselling fiction books of 2023

Check out our top-selling fiction books this year.

A brief guide to Judy Nunn

A guide to Australian author Judy Nunn and a few of her most popular books.

Let us tell you a story

Australian authors and personalities read some of our favourite picture books.

Judy Nunn Q&A

The Khaki Town author answers our questions about bringing wartime Townsville to life.

Writing an island

Judy Nunn offers insights into the creation of her book Sanctuary.

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
A Gentleman in Moscow book club questions

A letter from the author and book club questions for one of Amor Towles' most popular books.

Looking for more book club notes?

See all book club notes