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The Hired Man
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2016 Book Discussions > The Hired Man - Chapters 01 to 10 (July 2016)

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message 1: by Hugh (last edited Jul 01, 2016 02:07AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Hugh (bodachliath) | 2802 comments Mod
This thread is for discussion about the first 10 chapters - events in those are fair game, but please do not post spoilers about anything that happens later in the book. The book has no obvious division into sections, but 10 chapters is almost halfway and seems like a suitable breakpoint.
A few opening questions (feel free to comment on anything else you like):
Did the opening chapters hold your attention? Is Duro a sympathetic narrator? How do you feel the atmosphere develops? Did the English characters interest you at all?

LindaJ^ (lindajs) | 2395 comments I've read the whole book and not sure where Chapter 11 leaves off so I'll be general in my responses.
As to Duro -- initially I was a bit skeptical because he was sort of misleading the English lady in that he did not tell her exactly what people were saying to her/about her and sort of mislead her with respect to some things about the house, e.g., his cousin's comments at the bakery and the mosaic on the front of the house. But I did come to like him, although sympathetic is not the term I would use. The English characters were not nearly as interesting in the beginning, especially Matthew, as they became.

As to the atmosphere - I felt a slowly increasing sense of dread.

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

Lily (joy1) | 2503 comments Linda wrote: "As to the atmosphere - I felt a slowly increasing sense of dread..."

Well put. I finished the book last night and am stewing today over the art, the objectives, the trajectory, the themes Forna has attempted to capture. (Yes, I'll place any statements on those over in the correct thread. But no spoiler intended here, merely asking other readers what did they perhaps discern early. I think an uneasy sense that all is not well here, but what is it, exactly, permeates the writing almost from the start.) Knowing a bit about the history of the region, (view spoiler)

I find I want to go back and read again A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra. I feel the parallels more than more than I can articulate them at this point.

Hugh (bodachliath) | 2802 comments Mod
It is now a couple of years since I read the book, but from what I remember there were signs of unease very early on, but the early chapters seemed deceptively calm. Layers of meaning and events from the past are added at almost every stage - this was something I really liked about the book.

Lily (joy1) | 2503 comments Hugh wrote: "Layers of meaning and events from the past are added at almost every stage - this was something I really liked about the book. ..."

Even when one doesn't "get it," one has a sense Forna exercises pretty absolute control of her material.

Britta Böhler I agree with the other comments re the 'sense of dread' underneath the calm surface of a peaceful village. But maybe, this is (at least partly) fuelled by my own expectations (because I know where the novel takes place and I know about the war).
I am not sure how I feel about Duro: for some reason I expect him to be less 'nice' than he seems. Anyone else have that feeling?

Hugh (bodachliath) | 2802 comments Mod

I think you're right - you can definitely tell right from the start that for all his helpfulness, Duro is reluctant to talk about what really matters. As Lily says, what gets revealed when is very tightly controlled by the author (and by implication, by Duro as narrator).

Dianne | 224 comments I'm not quite finished with this section but I totally agree that Forna is deliberately suspenseful in a slow, methodical manner, you learn that the inhabitants of Gost love the future "because it is as far as possible from the past," no one wants to discuss the past and everyone wants to forget it. Duro inadvertently slips on occasion in his grim references to past events to Laura and then corrects himself, but she remains oblivious. He describes how his remaining family members left and he had to learn to be alone, but my question is why? Why did he stay? He seems to have nothing to stay for!

message 9: by Lily (last edited Jul 07, 2016 06:40PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Lily (joy1) | 2503 comments Dianne wrote: "He seems to have nothing to stay for! ..."

Is part of the question, what does he have to leave for? He did leave once. I haven't thought about the parallels and the differences. Where is there to go? What is there to stay for? (I find myself thinking of one of Forna's protagonists in The Memory of Love. Perhaps she tends to leave (some of) her characters lost and without anchor and direction at the end of war, purpose and drive sometimes coming from the outside. Not sure any generalization is accurate. )

Franky | 118 comments I'm currently reading and am about to chapter 10 and will also ditto others comments about the "unseen" dread that I'm expecting to come after the calm matter of fact descriptions and narration from Duro. Really well written and beautiful descriptions of the setting and scenery. Forna does a solid job with the character of Duro.

James | 72 comments I've just finished chapter 10. This has been another great choice for the group. I feel that Duro has some revenge planned - he seems such a controlled and controlling individual. The point that stands out for me is that he had a life away from Gost, but he's come back. Some event must have triggered his return. He's keeping himself very fit and is still a crack shot. He's patient and the occupation of the blue house seems to have been another trigger to action. I'd say he's manipulating Laura and the family to get to someone, even by the action of buying her the red hat.

Laura seems quite naive.

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

Hugh (bodachliath) | 2802 comments Mod
Thanks Franky and Jim - glad you're enjoying it

Dianne | 224 comments I'm into the second half of the book now and realize when I posted before I hadn't known he had left for a period of years. So yes, now I am wondering why he continues to stay in Gost when he doesn't have a reason to? Duro seems like a character who is so over controlled that he may snap at any moment, though he remains polite and helpful to Laura it seems he always has in mind his own interest in maintaining his employment by her and perhaps further ingratiating himself with the family. I'm not sure what his ultimate objective with Laura is (or hers with him, for that matter). His prior relationship with Anka appears to have been a cornerstone of his life, and also served as the turning point in his relationship with Kresimir. I suspect Kresimir and Duro will have some dramatic further falling out at this point.

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

Hugh (bodachliath) | 2802 comments Mod
Dianne wrote: "...I am wondering why he continues to stay in Gost ..."
I can't really answer your question without spoiling, but I can say that we have discussed Duro's motivation for returning/staying in the whole book spoiler thread.

message 15: by Viv (new) - rated it 5 stars

Viv JM | 62 comments One thing I've found interesting about the writing is that the past is written about using the present tense. Did anyone else notice this? Occasionally it tripped me up until I realised!

I am finding Duro an interesting character. As others have said, he is very controlled and measured. Reading the chapter where he is teaching Matthew to shoot feels significant. He is clearly a very good shot and there was the comparison with the stepdad and a previous run-in with Kresimir.

There is certainly a building sense of dread.

message 16: by Hugh (new) - rated it 5 stars

Hugh (bodachliath) | 2802 comments Mod
Yes Viv, the way the present and past are woven together almost seamlessly is something Forna does very well, and using the present to talk about the past is very much part of that (in fact anyone who watches television history programmes comes to realise that the historic present tense is almost ubiquitous nowadays - the cliche has it that it brings a greater immediacy to past events, but this is often at the expense of blurring the distinction between past and present).

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