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October Book of The Month Discussion - In the Country of Men

(167 Posts)
TillyBookClub Tue 30-Oct-07 11:22:51

This is the thread to come to for tonight's Book of the Month discussion and live author chat. Just a reminder, we'll kick off at 8pm and chat about the book amongst ourselves for an hour. And then Hisham Matar, our author for this month, will join us at 9pm to answer questions and give us the inside story. We'll probably wrap up around 10pm.

If you can't make it this evening but would like to ask Hisham a question or two, please post them here now and Hisham will post his answers later on.

See you here at 8pm...

ChampagneSupernova Tue 30-Oct-07 13:54:04

Question for Hisham Matar - I loved the book. I am sure I have read somewhere that this isn't really an autobiographical novel but I was wondering how much of your own childhood you drew on to depict Suleiman's world so effectively?


FlameInHell Tue 30-Oct-07 13:56:07

<sob> I can't think of any questions, but I actually read the book, finished in time, and now I have to go out

Giggi Tue 30-Oct-07 14:04:13

Another Q for HM - I also enjoyed the book, though found it harrowing at times. What reaction, if any, have you had from Libyans who were around in Libya at the time you were writing about?

yajorome Tue 30-Oct-07 14:13:00

I just finished the book and found it extremely moving and gut-wrenching. My son is 9 years old and I feel like I've gained a new perspective on him and how he could be thinking.

In the press they sometimes talk about childhood being a casualty of war or a brutal regime. It was interesting how the other children around Suleiman and his reactions to that and his own fate at the end of the book. Do you think there's any way back from that? Or is that something that's easy to destroy and difficult if not impossible to rebuild?

Also, do you think that there was anything that could have changed Suleiman's betrayals? It was too much to ask a 9 year old (I say that as a mother in fierce protective mode), so I have a bit of a difficult time using 'betrayal' and its connotations. What was it that kept Kareem who he was?

Thanks - sorry if that's a bit incoherent. Just finished it and still feel very emotional. Hope to make it tonight but wanted to get this in in case I didn't!

TharSheBlows Tue 30-Oct-07 19:58:54

I want to second the question about it being autobiographical. Is it? If so, did it change how people relate to you? It must be strange having people know such personal details of your life!

Loved the book.

TillyBookClub Tue 30-Oct-07 19:59:57

I have my wine, I have my gas fire, I have someone else cooking my supper: I am already loving this bookclub. grin

To kick of the very first session then….

I’ve been thinking a lot about the mixed feelings I had for Suleiman (frustration, pity, love, a bit of anger). What did everyone else feel when he told the agent about the counter revolutionary headquarters? Were you angry with him? I still think he has to shoulder some of the blame, even though I know he’s nine and in a terrible situation.

fryalot Tue 30-Oct-07 20:01:41

ok, I'm here. I have decided to be all grown up and shrug off the halloween name for tonight.

I felt very angry with Sulieman, in fact, I was yelling at the book (normally I only do that to tv).

SusanNevs Tue 30-Oct-07 20:04:54

Pure pity. He was never given enough information to understand what he was doing.

I'm balancing 2 sleepy kids and will try to keep up...

CocoDeBearisCocoDeBear Tue 30-Oct-07 20:05:01

First off, I absolutely loved the book.

I must say I found Suleiman to be very naive for 9. I feel that at 9 I would have been a bit more clued up (thinking back 100s of years...). I found myself just slapping my head and muttering I can't believe he's doing this. I even ranted at DH about it.

fryalot Tue 30-Oct-07 20:06:37

I kept reminding myself that he was only nine years old and not, absolutely not, responsible in any way.

But it didn't stop me from blaming him anyway and feeling angry about what happened

yajorome Tue 30-Oct-07 20:06:58

No, I don't feel he was to blame. I think that it's far too young to make such judgments rationally - to think through the consequences and, most importantly, to have the emotional maturity not to act on first impulses.

Of course, I have my 9 year old (who really needs to go to bed) sitting here beside me, so am coloured by that!

yajorome Tue 30-Oct-07 20:09:40

Really? I don't think I would have been that clued up to know what to do. Plus he was probably desperate for someone to take care of him and love/show concern for/be proud of him. His parents didn't seem to do that except in a needy way.

And I don't think they were awful people either - just a bit weak (the mother very) in a terrible situation.

CocoDeBearisCocoDeBear Tue 30-Oct-07 20:11:52

The mother was terribly weak. Very young though, it turned out. And never honest about anything! So I suppose he had no hope of being able to work out what was what with any degree of accuracy.

TillyBookClub Tue 30-Oct-07 20:12:10

Me too - I wanted to shake him and ended up rattling the book instead. After I'd finished, I felt a little more sympathetic, as everyone in the story falls victim to one weakness or another. But he seemed to give no thought to what he said and did in those moments - they were so impetuous. I guess thats the point, its only human to act foolishly and without thought.

yajorome Tue 30-Oct-07 20:14:04

And apols if I seem a bit emotional - was a really hard book for me to read. I think I saw a bit of my son (some incidental bits) in Suleiman and am having a hard time not reacting viscerally! Odd, isn't it.

How old are your children?

chocoholic Tue 30-Oct-07 20:14:17

I was so dissapointed in him but then he hadn't been given the full story so wouldn't know its full implications I guess.

chocoholic Tue 30-Oct-07 20:17:08

Did his parents ever brief him as to what to say in that situation? They did leave him rather exposed I think.

SusanNevs Tue 30-Oct-07 20:17:41

on that point - about it being only human - i feel a nagging urge to draw a parallel between S's behavior and that of the leaders of the revolution... maybe in understanding him, we can better understand them and their devoted followers??

lalaa Tue 30-Oct-07 20:17:49

I feel as though if he'd had a stronger more supportive mother, he wouldn't have felt the need to seek approval from the agent. Desperately sad situation. It felt to me as though he'd been abandoned by both parents

Hallgerda Tue 30-Oct-07 20:20:40

I felt sorry for Suleiman, particularly over having to live with his mother - the character I was screaming at. I didn't see him as responsible over the political betrayals - he thought he was helping his father. His treatment of Kareem was nasty, but understandable from a nine-year-old in that situation. Kareem was older, and may have been better informed by his family.

TillyBookClub Tue 30-Oct-07 20:22:37

True that he woulnd't have quite understood the repercussions, although once the scary police had searched the house you'd think he'd get the idea that silence was golden.

I thought his relationship with the agent in the car outside was interesting - almost like a replacement father figure, someone to please. It felt like there were two types of parenting going on - the harsh political regime and the absenteeism/flakiness of his real parents.

CocoDeBearisCocoDeBear Tue 30-Oct-07 20:23:15

My kids are 3 and 0, so perhaps if they were older I'd relate to the main character in a more maternal way...

As it was I really had to struggle not to blame him for what happened... The whole family were weak weak WEAK! The father struck me as incredibly irresponsible and surely entirely to blame for Ustath Rashid's awful death?

yajorome Tue 30-Oct-07 20:24:05

Chocoholic - I never thought of that (the briefing him). For some reason that has me feeling better.

SusanNevs, I was wondering if it was an extended metaphor or whatever you call it. I'm not sure it entirely works if so.

CocoDeBearisCocoDeBear Tue 30-Oct-07 20:24:24

And why did Suleiman keep that bliming BOOK!??????

I wanted to shake him when I read that. Gahhhhhhhh.

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