Amnesty International BookClub discussion

Anil's Ghost
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November 2014- Anil's Ghost by Michael Ondaatje

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message 1: by Amnesty (last edited Nov 18, 2014 09:51PM) (new) - added it

Amnesty Bookclub | 223 comments Mod
Welcome back! This month's book is Anil's Ghost by Michael Ondaatje,
which follows native Sri Lankan Anil Tissera's journey back to that country during its civil war to work as a forensic pathologist.

While working with a local anthropologist, she discovers the skeleton of a recently murdered man in an ancient burial ground and government protected area. Suspecting a political motivation behind the killing they attempt to identify the skeleton and find justice for the disappeared victim of war.

What happens when they try to find out the truth?

Have you read it? What did you like, what did you not like? What else did the book make you think about?

How does Anil relate to Sri Lanka and her past? What is her emotional state on her return?

What does Anil's rejection of her feminine name as a child tell us about her personality and sense of identity?

How does telling the story from the perspective of several different characters add to the story, and to finding the truth?

What are all the "ghosts" that haunt this story?

Is the rising of the Buddha at the end of the book symbolic in any way? If so, it what ways?

Michael Ondaatje does not take sides in the conflict he writes about, choosing to focus on the human aspect of the war and the relationships of the characters. In what ways do these relationships reveal the truth about war?

How do Sri Lanka’s history and culture impact the story? What role does colonialism play? Is the past always present?

How does Michael Ondaatje use the senses – taste, smell, etc. – to involve us in the novel?

The complete discussion guide for the book has more food for thought, background on the current human rights situation and current Amnesty International actions you can take:

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Amnesty Bookclub | 223 comments Mod
Take action! Whether you read the book or not, you can still take action on the cases in the discussion guide.

This month's current cases focus on the principle location of Anil's Ghost, Sri Lanka. Page 8 of the guide describes a father's quest to get answers and justice surrounding his son's death. In 2006, Ragihar Manoharan and four students were murdered by Sri Lankan security forces. There was an inquiry, and after giving evidence at it, Ragihar's family received death threats.

A follow-up commission of inquiry was held, and the report was never published. No one has ever been brought to justice for their murder.

Write the President using the information in the discussion guide.

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Amnesty Bookclub | 223 comments Mod
As with Ruthis book has sections that are quite short, and travels back and forth in time. In addition, Anil's Ghost seems to also be narrated from different points of view. Some members of the AI Vancouver Book Club found that jarring and a little unsettling. Do you agree? Do you think that was on purpose, perhaps representing life during a civil war?

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Elizabeth Barter (emuriel777) | 4 comments What is December's pick?

message 5: by Amnesty (new) - added it

Amnesty Bookclub | 223 comments Mod
Good question Elizabeth! Anil's Ghost is a November/December pick, there will be a new title for January that we should know by December. The January title will be selected by author Joseph Boyden! He is author of "Three day road" and "The Orenda".

I'll update it here as soon as I know! Thanks for asking!

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Elizabeth Barter (emuriel777) | 4 comments Thank you.

message 7: by Brooke (new)

Brooke Watson | 2 comments Back in the 90's I read Ondaatjes' 'Coming Through Slaughter' which was not technically set in a war, but painted a picture as Impressionistic as I have found the first part part (that I have read) of Anil's Ghost. I have just finalized plans to visit personal ghosts and very much look forward to Ondaatjes' way of getting under your emotional skin.

message 8: by Bob (new)

Bob Settle | 1 comments I found this book very difficult to read and understand. Would love to be a part of a discussion group face-to-face to talk about it.

message 9: by Brooke (new)

Brooke Watson | 2 comments For me and this author it is not being dragged through a straight narration of time and space. Letting the poetry of the language and how you feel about it be the story

I haven't finished it yet but can empathize with Anil looking at her choices and circumstances and ruminating on her own past. Sharing a universal pain.

message 10: by Amnesty (new) - added it

Amnesty Bookclub | 223 comments Mod
People in the Vancouver (in-person, face-to-face) book club also found the book a little difficult to follow, Bob. They found the style inconsistent and a little jarring.

Brooke, I've always found that Ondaatje's background as a poet shines through with his novels too. If I recall correctly his "In the skin of a lion" especially so.

One thing I wondered, is the role of the friend, the one who gets Alzheimer's? Do you think he chose that sickness due to it's impact on memory, within a book that is all about memories and the past?

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