1. What is the significance of the three epigraphs to the book -- quoted from T.S. Eliot, the Upanishads, and a Swahili proverb? Think about the epigraphs, but also the sources from which they are taken.
2. “We remained that enigma, the Asians of Africa.” How does M.G. Vassanji explore the “in-between” status of Indians in Kenyan society? Does it change over the course of the novel? How do its effects play out in the lives of different members of the Lall family?
3. How does the novel handle the competing claims of the personal and the political? How does it treat characters who favour of political violence and those who are scarred by it? Do you feel that it makes a judgment about violence?
4. Were you surprised that Njoroge gives up Deepa when her mother insists? Why does he accede?
5. How does The In-Between World of Vikram Lall compare with another novel you have read that grapples with political issues (such as one by V. S. Naipaul, George Orwell, Arthur Koestler, Graham Greene, Leo Tolstoy…)
6. What is the importance of the stories of people besides the narrator in the novel? For example, the railway stories of Vic’s grandfather; the history of the couple in Jamieson, etc.
7. How does the subtle repetition of “third wheels” in the novel connect to its deeper themes? Think of Vikram’s father excluded from the bond between his mother and Mahesh; Vikram himself left outside the bond between Njoroge and Deepa.
8. What are the roles of fathers, real and symbolic, in The In-Between World of Vikram Lall? Consider Vikram’s father, Inspector Verma, Jomo Kenyatta, etc.
9. How is colonialism experienced in The In-Between World of Vikram Lall? And independence?
10. Look back at some of Vikram’s descriptions of himself: “There was a frozen core buried deep inside me that I could not dislodge or melt, that held me back”; “I have said that I could not engage morally in my world”; “I don’t know what is happening to me”; “I noticed a certain self-detachment in myself.”
To what extent is this honest reflection? Defensive self-justification?
11. What did you make of the “frame” of the small Ontario town from which Vikram Lall tells much of what happens in the novel? Did you find Seema Chatterjee and Joseph important characters? Is there the beginning of a comparison between Kenyan society and Canadian society at work here?
12. At various times the narrator pauses in his recollections to explain the historical context of the times he is describing. How did you feel about these passages?
13. “It was mother who still said, We have to think of the samaj, the community, don’t we; the world watches us…” How do the claims of community and tradition pull at the principal characters?
14. Choose one of the minor characters in the novel -- Sophia, Mahesh, Khiakia, Inspector Soames, etc. -- and consider what he or she contributes to the book as a whole.
15. Why does Vikram Lall decide to return home?
16. Discuss: servants / Jamieson / songs / the Masai in The In-Between World of Vikram Lall.
17. Did you find Vikram Lall to be a sympathetic character in his own story?
18. How did you feel about the ending of the novel?