The White Bone: A Novel

The White Bone: A Novel

by Barbara Gowdy

Paperback(First Edition)

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780312264123
Publisher: Picador
Publication date: 06/03/2000
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 765,037
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.79(d)

About the Author

Barbara Gowdy is the author of six previous books, and a new novel, Helpless, coming from Metropolitan Books in April 2007. She lives in Toronto, Ontario.

Reading Group Guide

About this Guide

The following author biography and list of questions about The White Bone are intended as resources to aid individual readers and book groups who would like to learn more about the author and this book. We hope that this guide will provide you a starting place for discussion, and suggest a variety of perspectives from which you might approach The White Bone.


Discussion Questions

1. When Date Bed is separated from her family, she discovers that the Domain has been warped by the violence of man. Because these are "abnormal times," she's not quite certain of animals' behaviors anymore. It's clear that the arrival of man not only alters the elephants' world, but the animal kingdom at large. In what ways are each of the character's perspectives altered, both through direct circumstance and spiritually?

2. In what ways do the elephants' religion parallel and differ from the varieties of human worship?

3. Standing amidst the slaughter of his family, Hail Stones says to Mud, "Only in moments of bliss does it become apparent to us why terrible things happen." (p.117) What does the young bull mean by this statement? If Mud cannot yet understand the statement, does she by the end of the novel?

4. On p. 121: "Twice [She-Snorts] located Date Bed's dung and twice she smelled single drops of her blood. At the first discovery of blood, on the node of a log, She-Snorts said, ‘She is wounded,' and She-Soothes bellowed, ‘Hardly at all!' and their voices, one frightened, one encouraged, described the precise, contracted boundaries of what could be reasonably felt. Not despairing, not yet. Not relieved yet, either." How do these opposite sentiments resonate throughout the novel at large? Where would you say Mud stands between such opinions?

5. At the opening of Chapter Ten (p. 159), the author describes the elephants' sense of time. What role does memory play in such measurements, and what do the elephants' perceptions say about how they view themselves?

6. When left to her own devices, how does Date Bed improvise her own measurements of time? And reflectively, how does her memory change?

7. Toward the end of Mud's pregnancy, she experiences a dream of Date Bed telling her, "You must understand, we aren't what we think we are." Date Bed's trunk then disappears, and out of the cavity a wind blows and a baby cries, "Mama!" What do you think this vision means to Mud? What are her feelings about her own child?

8. When Date Bed finds the Thing, she begins what could be described as a self-exploration. Her journey begins to increasingly turn inward. Through the exercises that she uses to recover lost memory, what does Date Bed find?

9. "By what misguided arrangement were she-ones made swollen with memory rather than sleek with appetite?" (p. 320) Discuss the relevancy of this statement, not only at the close of the book, but throughout the entire novel.

10. Through Mud's eyes, who is Bolt?

Customer Reviews

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White Bone 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 18 reviews.
pwee More than 1 year ago
this novel contained a vividness not found in many books, and also was laden with a sense of realism. Not meant for younger readers, on behalf of it being a bit too realistic, in animal terms, including mating season, and such, but sure to please, and very touching indeed. The mating periods were unneeded, I would think, but Barbara Gowdy definately has a great sense of description and a talent that is capable of touching your heart. A great book for animal lovers that are older readers.
A-Cason More than 1 year ago
Seven years after reading The White Bone I am still haunted by its elegant, inventive language, its entirely original conception, the authority with which the narrative device is carried out. I am still recommending it to friends, still enthralled by it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
If you can allow yourself to delve fully into the text, and if you will allow the thoughts of a world unbeknownst to you to exist fully in its own right, you will fall in love with Mud, and learn not only about her life but be reflective of your own in its wake. Not only your own related family but the one of the whole world of which you are a tiny part. Seeing the interconnectdness of species and the beauty of animals' subtle ways is an appreciation you may gain, and if you do, you will be the better for it.
mgaulding on LibraryThing 8 months ago
One of my favorite books ever.
hagertyhartfeldt on LibraryThing 8 months ago
I love Gowdy's writing, but this novel requires more effort than I was willing to expend. After trying twice to get started, I gave up.
corgidog2 on LibraryThing 11 months ago
African elephants fight for survival against nature and man-told from the point of view of the elephants. (Sounds corny but it works.)
kellyoyo on LibraryThing 11 months ago
Though it was worth reading, The White Bone is proof that lit writers shouldn't mess with speculative fiction unless they do a little homework first.Everything was perfect about this book except one thing: the speculative aspect. It was fascinating to be in the elephants' world, but I thought the portrayal of individual personalities and relationships between the elephants was weak and fell back on human tropes and stereotypes. This was especially true in the portrayal of romantic longing between male and female elephants. It just didn't ring true.
nanaannaAB More than 1 year ago
an exceptional read enjoyed every minute and have told countless others ita a great read
mommamacCA More than 1 year ago
Not a quick read, but an amazing one!
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Guest More than 1 year ago
This is the first novel I have read by this author and I found it compelling. The premise is novel and the writing wonderful. It is a story that should make us all stop and think about the treatment of animals and our earth.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was definitley the best book I have ever read! Once you learn who is who and what the elephant's lingo is (a big thank you to the author for adding the dictionary at the beginning) it is a great book. I hope she writes a second. I wish there were more books like this out there.
Guest More than 1 year ago
You have to read this book i am 14 and i read it. It was hard to understand at first then i found who the shes were who was who and who was talking.She really puts it in perspective what an elepants life is like.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The story is so real and factual yet so creative and imaginative at the same time. The author manages to blend it altogether into this masterpiece and you feel as if you are right there with the She-Ones. I think anyone would enjoy the beauty and simpleness of this complex book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I've read this book 3 times now and am still entranced by it. The author grounds her story in what is scientifically known about the emotional and social lives of elephants and imagines an entire possible elephantine worldview from that. Wonderful characters in an engaging story.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I absolutely love this book! When I finished it I felt like something was missing in my life. This book left me crying and showing soo many emotions for these elephants. I told everyone I know about this book... it has to be my FAVORITE BOOK ever!!