Book Group Pick: Lost Kingdom

Mahalo nui loa –  Hawaiian for thank you very much! – to the dozen or so book groups I’ve heard from around the country that have picked Lost Kingdom as their monthly or quarterly read. I’m truly grateful to all of you – from Liz Epstein’s Literary Masters groups (10 book groups in the San Francisco Bay Area) to Catherine Hartman’s lovely group of Stanford alum and other book-loving friends in Chicago to Jason Poole (The Accidental Hawaiian Crooner) who also organizes a reading group in Pittsburgh. I’m especially grateful to Julie Robinson of Literary Affairs, who organizes book events and moderates book groups in Beverly Hills and the Los Angeles area, for choosing Lost Kingdom as one of her recommended reads. Here are some questions to discuss on Lost Kingdom that come from Liz Epstein at Literary Masters. Hope they’re helpful and if you have other questions, I’d be delighted to skype or phone into your book group for a chat if my schedule permits.

Points to Ponder for Lost Kingdom

  • Whose story is Lost Kingdom and who should be telling it? Do you think Julia Flynn Siler, a haole or white foreigner to the islands, does a good job of showing all sides of this story about nineteenth century Hawaii?  Do you think it is an important story?
  • Is there a hero/heroine or villain/villainess in this story?
  • How do you feel about Lili’u?  Could she have done anything to alter the course of historical events?  Should she have?  Do you consider her a tragic figure?
  • How do you feel about King David Kalakaua?  How responsible was he for the course of events?
  • How do you feel about the way the United States handled the annexation of Hawaii?  Grover Cleveland claimed “Hawaii is ours…as I contemplate the means used to complete the outrage, I am ashamed of the whole affair.”  Do you agree/ disagree with him?
  • How do you feel about the way the Hawaiians handled the annexation of Hawaii?  Did you get a good sense from the book as to how and why they behaved as they did?
  • What surprised you about Claus Spreckels?  What about Dole?  Are there other characters in the book that you feel played a pivotal role and you’d like to know more about them?
  • What were the motives of  the original missionaries in coming to Hawaii, and then how do you feel about their descendents?  Was everyone generally well-intentioned, or was self-interest paramount?
  • What is the relevance of this history for us today?
  • Can you imagine an alternate history?  Where would Hawaii be today if the US hadn’t annexed it?  Where would the US be today without Hawaii?
  • This was our non-fiction selection for the season.  Do you think this particular history of Hawaii could be better told as ‘historical fiction’?




  1. Hi Julia,

    I hope you’re doing well! We met briefly at the Stanford Alumni book discussion in Chicago earlier this year. I finished reading your book and absolutely loved it! Wow, what an awesome narrative of Hawaii’s history. There were so many details beautifully woven into the telling/retelling of the history of the Islands. I learned an immense about Hawaii, its native culture, people and about the politics of the past, especially of American imperialism/colonialism. I felt great empathy for the Queen and the way in which she lost her kingdom. Thank you for sharing this history.



  1. […] during Emma's visit to Windsor Castle in 1865. Read more: It was Britain's James Cook who discovered Hawaii for Europe, although the Americans then took over…d Hawaii for Europe, although the Americans then took over the state that has become its Pacific […]

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