(Suggested by Charles; thank you, and thanks to the friends who helped to put these questions together.)
The Wildings: Book club discussion guide
- How real did the world of the cats in Nizamuddin feel to you? Did it take you some time to get into it, or were you engaged from the first chapter onwards? Did your own city or neighbourhood seem any different to you once you’d finished reading The Wildings?
- Did Mara’s dilemma as a Sender, setting her apart from the other cats, make sense to you? How did you feel about her fear of the outside, and her reluctance to leave the safety of her home with the Bigfeet, especially coupled with her loneliness and her need to make friends? When she does make friends with the tigers at the zoo, did that have any parallels with the pros and cons of human “virtual” friendships versus “actual contact” friendships?
- What did you feel about the network of relationships between the cats in Nizamuddin, and between the cats and the other animals in the area? Were there parallels with the ways in which humans sometimes build circles of relationships, or did you feel that this was only about animal behaviour? How do different animals—the cheels in the sky, the tigers in captivity, the cats of the Clan and the feral cats of the Shuttered House, the Babblers and the mice—experience their environments?
- In what ways do Katar, Beraal, Hulo, Mara and Southpaw change, learn or grow during the course of the book? What do they learn from Miao, and perhaps from Kirri, the mongoose?
- Would you agree that the world is divided into predators and prey, or is there room in The Wildings for more variety between these two classifications?
- Does The Wildings work as a novel about a city (Delhi)? If so, what makes the narrative about the city, including but going beyond Nizamuddin, successful? If not, what should the author have included? How does a human city change when you see it from the perspective of cats, or any other group of animals?
- Friendship and survival are two of the main themes of The Wildings. How plausible were the various kinds of friendship: between Mara and Southpaw, between Mara and her Bigfeet, between Tawny and Rudra in the zoo, between Miao and Tooth, between Katar, Hulo, Beraal and Miao? What narrative tools were employed to hint at the hardships and challenges strays of all breeds might face? How ruthless are warriors like Kirri and Beraal when it comes to questions of survival, and what, if anything, distinguishes their hunting from Datura’s liking for slaughter?
- How does The Wildings compare to other novels that have animals as the lead characters—from Kipling’s Jungle Books to EB White’s novels to Richard Adams’ Watership Down? How do authors construct the fictional world of animals differently from each other, and what makes these worlds plausible? Is it necessary to stay, as The Wildings has mostly done, within the bounds of what real animal behaviour might be, or is realism not necessary in animal stories?
- What did you find memorable, inspiring or surprising about The Wildings? Did you feel that it held any kind of deeper allegorical meaning, and if so, what meaning did it hold for you? Which characters did you feel most strongly drawn to, and what did they signify to you?