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The Hired Man
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2016 Book Discussions > The Hired Man - General Discussion, No Spoilers (July 2016)

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Hugh (bodachliath) | 2804 comments Mod
This thread is for general discussion and background information on The Hired Man - no spoilers please.


message 2: by Hugh (last edited Jul 01, 2016 05:59AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Hugh (bodachliath) | 2804 comments Mod
Aminatta Forna is a British writer, with a Scottish mother and a father from Sierra Leone. She has written two previous novels Ancestor Stones and The Memory of Love, both of which are entirely set in Africa, and a powerful memoir The Devil That Danced on the Water: A Daughter's Quest, which talks about her childhood, the life and death of her father, who was a finance minister in Sierra Leone and the more recent civil war there. This book is her first to be set entirely outside Africa, and takes place in Croatia, exploring the civil wars in the former Yugoslavia and their aftermath.

A few reviews (warning - these may contain spoilers):
https://www.theguardian.com/books/201...
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/bo...
http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-ent...
https://www.bostonglobe.com/arts/book...

Some background information on the Croatian war:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Croatia...


message 3: by Carol (new) - added it

Carol (carolfromnc) | 452 comments Hugh wrote: "Aminatta Forna is a British writer, with a Scottish mother and a father from Sierra Leone. She has written two previous novels Ancestor Stones and The Memory of Love, b..."

This is a wonderful set of materials, Hugh.


message 4: by Lily (last edited Jul 01, 2016 05:44AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Lily (joy1) | 2503 comments Hugh wrote: "This thread is for general discussion and background information on The Hired Man - no spoilers please."

Hugh -- are you really telling us there are no spoilers in all those reviews you cite in the next post? I haven't read them, but I find it hard not to surmise there will be!? [Smile -- I grant, there ARE NO spoilers in what you posted per se!]

Another source that might interest people about Aminatta Forna is her nomination as a Neustadt author in 2016. (The winner was Dubravka Ugrešić, actually from Croatia/Netherlands.)

List of Finalists: http://www.neustadtprize.org/the-neus... (third page, 2016)

Press release: http://www.neustadtprize.org/finalist...

Biography included in press release:

"Aminatta Forna was born in Scotland, raised in Sierra Leone and Britain, and now lives in London. She is the award-winning author of the novels The Hired Man, The Memory of Love and Ancestor Stones. In 2014, she received Yale University’s Donald Windham–Sandy M. Campbell Literature Prize. In addition to her novels, she has published short stories and was a finalist for the 2010 BBC National Short Story Award. Her essays and articles have appeared in Granta, The Times, The Observer and Vogue magazine. Forna is a fellow and council member of the Royal Society of Literature and sits on the board of the National Theatre of Great Britain, the general committee of the Royal Literary Fund, and the council of the Caine Prize for African Writing. She has acted as a judge for a number of literary prizes and was most recently a judge for the 2013 Man Booker International Prize. Forna is currently a professor of creative writing at Bath Spa University, and she published her memoir, The Devil That Danced on the Water: A Daughter's Quest, in 2002.

"Nominated by: Mũkoma wa Ngũgĩ / Work: The Memory of Love"

Many of you know that I consider her The Memory of Love and Rohinton Mistry's A Fine Balance (2012 Neustadt Laureate) the two finest books I have read the past eighteen months or so.

http://aminattaforna.com/


Hugh (bodachliath) | 2804 comments Mod
Lily,

Thanks very much for those links. I have edited my earlier comment to add a warning about possible spoilers.


Nutmegger Linda (lindanutmegger) | 103 comments I found this book narrative to be a bit disjointed, and I'm usually very good at following flash-back and wandering themes. However, the book as a whole was lovely, disturbing and memorable.


Nutmegger Linda (lindanutmegger) | 103 comments Lily wrote: "Hugh wrote: "This thread is for general discussion and background information on The Hired Man - no spoilers please."

Hugh -- are you really telling us there are no spoilers in all..."


Hugh, I also found A Fine Balance to be a great book. Have you read City on Fire? It's right up there as great for me.


message 8: by Hugh (last edited Jul 01, 2016 06:55AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Hugh (bodachliath) | 2804 comments Mod
Linda wrote: "Hugh, I also found A Fine Balance to be a great book. Have you read City on Fire? It's right up there as great for me."
I agree with both of Lily's recommendations, having read A Fine Balance last month partly because Lily was so enthusiastic about it. Ancestor Stones is more of an acquired taste, and is almost more of a set of linked short stories than a novel. And no, I have not read City on Fire.


Lily (joy1) | 2503 comments Linda wrote: "...I also found A Fine Balance to be a great book. Have you read City on Fire? It's right up there as great for me...."

Thanks for the heads up, Linda. Another to at least to find it in a library (or bookstore, if there is one left) and browse it a bit before probably ensconcing it in my TBR. I am always fascinated by what others deem best of best, which is part of why I will read Infinite Jest! At least more of it than I have. And The Golden Bowl. And... [g]


message 10: by Lily (last edited Jul 02, 2016 08:42AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Lily (joy1) | 2503 comments Lily wrote: "...Another source that might interest people about Aminatta Forna is her nomination as a Neustadt author in 2016. (The winner was Dubravka Ugrešić, actually from Croatia/Netherlands.)..."

As I finished The Hired Man last night, I noticed Dubravka Ugrešić among Forna's credits. Besides going back to Marra's award-winning Constellation , which has so much of the same feeling about the devastation of war in one's midst (Chechen-Russian conflict), I find myself wanting to figure out what of Ugrešić's work I'd like to find time to read.


message 11: by Lily (last edited Jul 02, 2016 09:45AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Lily (joy1) | 2503 comments I need some non-fiction background on the war that is the background for this novel. I'll try to add some links, including to maps, as I learn.

Chechen–Russian conflict (what are the similarities to Croatia?)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chechen...

This map is by far the clearest I have found in showing the physical relationship of these two war torn areas: http://dateandtime.info/drivingdirect...

Croatia
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Croatia

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Croatia...

http://www.roughguides.com/maps/europ...

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/At...


message 12: by Hugh (new) - rated it 5 stars

Hugh (bodachliath) | 2804 comments Mod
Thanks for all of that Lily - I'm not sure I understand the immediate relevance of Chechnya since the circumstances there were very different. I have read one of Dubravka Ugrešić's novels, The Ministry of Pain, but that was several years ago and I dont remember it clearly.


message 13: by Lily (last edited Jul 02, 2016 07:41PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Lily (joy1) | 2503 comments Hugh wrote: "Thanks for all of that Lily - I'm not sure I understand the immediate relevance of Chechnya since the circumstances there were very different. I have read one of Dubravka Ugrešić's novels, [book:Th..."

For me, the relevance of Chechnya was the similarities in the devastation of war on the lives of the people and the distrust between neighbors that grew out of the atrocities committed.


message 14: by Hugh (new) - rated it 5 stars

Hugh (bodachliath) | 2804 comments Mod
Lily wrote: "For me, the relevance of Chechnya was the similarities in the devastation of war on the lives of the people and the distrust between neighbors that grew out of the atrocities committed. "
I agree, and you could say the same about the civil wars in Sierra Leone and many other civil wars. I think Forna is challenging the prevalent western attitude to African wars of "it couldn't happen here", and where better to do that than by talking about civil war in a previously civilised European country.


Nutmegger Linda (lindanutmegger) | 103 comments Lily wrote: "Linda wrote: "...I also found A Fine Balance to be a great book. Have you read City on Fire? It's right up there as great for me...."

Thanks for the heads up, Linda. An..."


Lily, I got about a third of the way through Infinite Jest. I think it will be a long time before I go back to it.


Nutmegger Linda (lindanutmegger) | 103 comments Lily wrote: "Hugh wrote: "Thanks for all of that Lily - I'm not sure I understand the immediate relevance of Chechnya since the circumstances there were very different. I have read one of Dubravka Ugrešić's nov..."

Another very good book that deals with this topic is The Cellist of Sarajevo. I read it a few years ago and was very touched to think of a war devastating such a beautiful, seemingly stable area.


message 17: by Hugh (last edited Jul 05, 2016 01:56AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Hugh (bodachliath) | 2804 comments Mod
Thanks again Linda. I have read The Cellist of Sarajevo, which was set in neighbouring Bosnia, where the war was even more complicated and lasted longer - that book was devastating too but in a very different way - for me it was more about how people coped with the day to day reality of living in a city under siege rather than the more subtle questions of why the conflict started and what injustices festered in the aftermath.

[I am reading Infinite Jest at the moment but this is not the place to start a detailed discussion of that]


message 18: by Lily (last edited Jul 05, 2016 01:24PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Lily (joy1) | 2503 comments http://www.theparisreview.org/blog/20...

This article is about war in other circumstances, but perhaps provides another point of continuity about the writers who are writing on the subject today.
Sort of a spoiler excerpt, so: (view spoiler)


message 19: by Lily (new) - rated it 3 stars

Lily (joy1) | 2503 comments https://www.theguardian.com/books/201...

Another Guardian article worth reading relative to THH.


message 20: by Hugh (new) - rated it 5 stars

Hugh (bodachliath) | 2804 comments Mod
Lily wrote: "https://www.theguardian.com/books/201...

Another Guardian article worth reading relative to THH."

Thanks for the link Lily - I read the Guardian on paper, and I remember reading this article. I was subconsciously alluding to it with my question about how successful Forna has been at avoiding being pigeonholed as an African writer when she is as much (if not more) a European than an African.
My grandmother was a Russian emigre from a Czarist family who fled the revolution and although this is much more interesting than anything else in my family background, I don't think of myself as Russian at all. Africa would have been an obvious subject for Forna to write about when she was starting out as a writer, but she clearly wants to escape that pigeonhole now.


message 21: by Viv (new) - rated it 5 stars

Viv JM | 62 comments I'm just starting this book. Thanks for all the great links!


message 22: by Lily (new) - rated it 3 stars

Lily (joy1) | 2503 comments Welcome! I hope you will agree that Forna provides a treat of good writing. Look forward to your comments.


message 23: by Whitney (new) - added it

Whitney | 2204 comments Mod
For anyone who feel they missed out, The Hired Man is currently $1.20 on Kindle.


message 24: by Marc (new) - added it

Marc (monkeelino) | 2827 comments Mod
Thanks, Whitney! That is too good a deal for me to pass up.


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