Reading guide for Flash House by Aimee E. Liu

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Flash House

by Aimee E. Liu

Flash House
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Feb 2003, 496 pages
    Paperback:
    Feb 2004, 464 pages

  • Rate this book


Buy This Book

About this Book

Reading Guide Questions Print Excerpt

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!

  1. In the opening pages, Kamla states that "Joanna Shaw rescued me in her way, and I tried to return the favor." How and why did Joanna need to be "rescued," or was that need only in Kamla's mind? Was Kamla successful in her attempt to return the favor?

  2. Joanna Shaw is a social worker who attempts to rescue girls who've been trafficked into India's sex trade. What does her chosen profession reveal about her character? Why is this important within the overall story?

  3. "Flash house" is a Victorian term for brothel-or house of prostitution. Kamla escapes from just such a house, but how does the metaphor of the "flash house" reflect other aspects of the novel?

  4. Early in the novel, Joanna Shaw's boss, Hari, lectures her about the horrors India suffered during Partition. "I try to remember what a short time you have been in India," he tells her, "you have no idea what is rape . . ." Is this meant as an indictment of American naiveté, or as a plea for help? How does Joanna's relative unfamiliarity with Asia's recent history affect her choice to pursue Aidan?

  5. Throughout this novel the characters make reference to the Great Game, the historical rivalry between Britain and Russia for control of the northern access routes to the Indian subcontinent. Why and how is the Great Game relevant to the political intrigues that engulf Joanna, Aidan, Kamla, and Lawrence in Sinkiang? Are there parallels you can draw between the Great Game and world political events today?

  6. All four of the main characters--Joanna, Lawrence, Simon, and Kamla--live outside their native states and cultures. They are, in effect, stateless, so that this becomes a story about the expatriate experience. In what ways is this a shared experience for all four characters? How and why is this experience different for each of them? How does their mutual statelessness impact their choices and interactions?

  7. Absence is a critical theme throughout this story. Aidan's absence drives Joanna's actions through much of the novel. Kamla and Simon both are marked by parental absence. Lawrence mourns the loss of his son. What are the effects of absence on the emotions and behavior of the characters?

  8. Although the novel is told through alternating chapters in three different voices, the story is bookended by sections written from Kamla's point of view as an elderly woman. How does this perspective shape the overall story? Why do you think the author selected Kamla rather than Joanna as the primary narrator?

  9. Aimee Liu has said that her earliest drafts of Flash House were written from the perspective of Simon as a grown man. Why do you think she abandoned this approach? How would it have altered the story for you if Simon had been telling the tale?

  10. What questions does the story raise about the impulse to rescue? Is rescue, as described in the story, intrinsically moral, emotional, or pragmatic? What links does the story suggest between acts of rescue and acts of love?

  11. In the epilogue Kamla states, "What mattered most in the end was not right or wrong. It was not politics or fidelity or even understanding. Certainly it was not the act of rescue. It was simply our mutual ineptitude at love." Is Kamla a reliable narrator? What does she mean by "our mutual ineptitude at love"?

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

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!
Member Benefits

Join Now!

Check the advantages!
Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year

    •  
    • FREE
    • MEMBER
    • Range of media reviews for each book
    • Excerpts of all featured books
    • Author bios, interviews and pronunciations
    • Browse by genre
    • Book club discussions
    • Book club advice and reading guides
    • BookBrowse reviews and "beyond the book" back-stories
    •  
    • Reviews of notable books ahead of publication
    •  
    • Free books to read and review (US Only)
    •  
    • Browse for the best books by time period, setting & theme
    •  
    • Read-alike suggestions for thousands of books and authors
    •  
    • 'My Reading List" to keep track of your books
    •  

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: The Romanovs
    The Romanovs
    by Simon Sebag Montefiore
    The Romanovs chronicles the reigns of the 20 individuals who were considered members of that dynasty...
  • Book Jacket: Barkskins
    Barkskins
    by Annie Proulx
    Barkskins, by Annie Proulx, is not a book to read quickly. After a month of slow reading, I ...
  • Book Jacket
    The Marriage of Opposites
    by Alice Hoffman
    Alice Hoffman's latest work, The Marriage of Opposites, is a historical fiction novel focusing on ...

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    All Is Not Forgotten
    by Wendy Walker

    This is fast-paced psychological suspense/thriller at it's very best.

    Read Member Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    The Secret Language of Stones
    by M. J. Rose

    "A fantastic historical tale of war, love, loss and intrigue."
    – Melanie Benjamin

    Read Member Reviews

Members review books pre-publication. Read their opinions in First Impressions

Book Discussions
Book Jacket
The Fair Fight
by Anna Freeman

A page-turning novel set in the world of 18th century female pugilists.

About the book
Join the discussion!
Summer Stunner
Summer Giveaway

Win 5 books, each week in July!

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

W M T N, W C F All

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.

 
X

BookBrowse Summer Giveaway

We're giving away
5 books every
week in July!