Reading guide for Across the Nightingale Floor by Lian Hearn

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Across the Nightingale Floor

Tales of the Otori, Volume I

by Lian Hearn

Across the Nightingale Floor
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  • First Published:
    Aug 2002, 304 pages
    Jun 2003, 323 pages

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Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!

  1. Revenge is a motivating factor for many of the actions of the characters throughout the book. As Takeo recalls how he knocked Iida from his horse he admits his prior ignorance of revenge, "I knew nothing of the wars of the clans, nothing of their rigid codes and their feuds. I had spent my whole life among the Hidden who are forbidden to kill and taught to forgive each other. But at that moment Revenge took me as a pupil" (pg. 7). In this situation revenge is a more powerful force than Takeo's religious beliefs. Does revenge continue to override all of Takeo's other emotions throughout the rest of the book? What other emotions motivate Takeo throughout the story?
  2. Upon meeting Shigeru, Takeo is told to change his name from Tomasu to Takeo. In remembering this Takeo says, "And so between the waterfall and the top of the mountain I lost my name, became someone new, and joined my destiny with the Otori" (p. 10). Besides protection why else does Shigeru think Takeo should change his name? Does changing his name affect Takeo's sense of who he is?
  3. A little while later, Takeo observes that others can still tell that he is a member of the Hidden. Takeo is surprised by this and admits, "I thought I had buried my old self along with my name, Tomasu" (pg. 18). When Takeo is finally able to truly disguise his Hidden identity from others has he buried his former identity from himself as well? Discuss the role of dissembling in the novel, and the ease or difficulty with which characters can change their identities.
  4. Takeo's loyalty expands beyond one tribe to three: the Hidden, the Otori, and the Tribe. Sometimes those loyalties will conflict with one another. Will Takeo ever be able to become his own person and make his own decisions or will his actions always reflect his loyalties? And can he exist with conflicting loyalties? Does society even allow one to make his own decisions?
  5. Takeo's final mission is to kill Iida in order to avenge the death of Shigeru. However, though Iida dies, Takeo is not the person who kills him. Does this bother Takeo? Is his mission still successful? Does the fact that everyone thinks that Takeo killed Iida make Takeo feel better or worse?
  6. Lady Maruyama becomes a role model for Kaede because she possesses traits that Kaede never expected a woman to have. Kaede is immediately drawn to Lady Maruyama and desperate for her approval. How is Lady Maruyama able to possess these traits in a society where women are seen as inferior to men? What gives Lady Maruyama her strength? Eventually Kaede finds out that Lord Otori, to whom she is betrothed, is in love with Lady Maruyama. How does Kaede feel knowing that the man she is to marry loves another woman, whom she herself admires?
  7. Shigeru makes many personal sacrifices for the good of the Otori. He even forfeits his happiness with Lady Maruyama to marry Kaede and eventually gives his life for the Otori. What does Takeo learn from Shigeru's actions? What does he himself give up?
  8. What does Jato represent to Takeo? Why is the sword so important and powerful to him?
  9. Do you think Takeo be able to avenge Shigeru's death in the next book? What trials do you imagine await him in his quest? Do you think he will ever have the power that Shigeru possessed?

Penguin Books, Marketing Department CC, Readers' Guides, 375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014-3657. Reproduced with the permission of the publisher. They may not be reproduced, duplicated or distributed without written permission from Penguin Group (USA) Inc. Copying these materials for anything other than your personal use is a violation of United States copyright laws.

Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Riverhead Books. Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.

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