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Celestial Bodies
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Readalongs > Celestial Bodies by Jokha Alharthi

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message 1: by Chris (last edited Sep 15, 2020 07:42AM) (new)

Chris Wolak (chriswolak) | 307 comments Mod
Join us for our last readalong of 2020, Celestial Bodies by Jokha Alharthi (translated by Marilyn Booth). This novel won the 2019 Man Booker International Prize.

Our Zoom discussion will be on Sunday, Nov 1st at 7:00 p.m. (EST). If you would like to join us please send an email to save your spot, bookcougars@gmail.com.

The podcast discussion will drop on November 10th via Episode 116, so if you're not joining us for the Zoom discussion, please submit your questions/comments to us by November 5th. We'd love to hear your thoughts on the novel and will attempt to discuss any questions you have.


Karen | 19 comments I’m in! Looking forward to this discussion and reading this book. It definitely is my cup of tea


message 3: by Deb (new) - rated it 3 stars

Deb | 49 comments Just got my copy and can't wait to read!


message 4: by Chris (new)

Chris Wolak (chriswolak) | 307 comments Mod
Karen wrote: "I’m in! Looking forward to this discussion and reading this book. It definitely is my cup of tea"

Yay Karen! So glad you'll be joining us.


message 5: by Chris (new)

Chris Wolak (chriswolak) | 307 comments Mod
Deb wrote: "Just got my copy and can't wait to read!"

Excellent! So glad you'll be reading with us, Deb.


message 6: by Anna (new) - added it

Anna | 15 comments Definitely hoping to join the read a long 😊😊


message 7: by Nancy (last edited Sep 25, 2020 03:27PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Nancy Motto | 15 comments Looking forward to doing the zoom discussion. I have a few books ahead of Celestial Bodies that I have to read for other discussions but I read the prologue by the translator and I'm really intrigued. I love reading about women in other cultures. This time I remembered to put the date on my calendar. Missed Convenience store Woman because I got my dates mixed up.


message 8: by Debbie (new)

Debbie | 4 comments Would love to be in on Zoom discussion.


message 9: by Emily (new) - added it

Emily | 259 comments Mod
Debbie wrote: "Would love to be in on Zoom discussion."

Hi Debbie: We would love for you to join us. Send an email to bookcougars@gmail.com to sign up.


Ellen | 10 comments Celestial Bodies was on my to read list in March and came to me via my library two days before lockdown! I tried to read it then but as many found I couldn't concentrate at that time. I'm trying it again now and still am having a hard time with it. The setting and circumstances are intriguing but I'm just not connecting to the characters. I will push through tho cause I love the Zoom discussions!


message 11: by Barbara (new) - added it

Barbara | 4 comments Recently got this via interlibrary loan and have started to dig in. At page 33, I am finding it hard to keep all the characters straight, even with the genealogical chart in the opening pages. I am not loving it, but I shall soldier on, Obviously, if it won the Man Booker Int’l Prize, there’s reason to continue.
I am following Emily’s lead and have started a reading journal, keeping notes as I read. I’ve found it a little disconcerting of late to recognize that, even just a few weeks after finishing a book, I sometimes have very little recall as to what the book was all about. Hoping this note-taking will jog my memory.


Karen | 19 comments Just started Celestial Bodies. Finding the family tree in the front of the book awkward. Anyone else find it to be that way?

Looking forward to discussing this book. I love to learn about different countries and cultures.


message 13: by Emily (new) - added it

Emily Simon | 5 comments Just picked up my copy from the library. I fat-fingered the pickup location when I put it on hold and ended up having to drive 1.5 hours to pick it up when it arrived. Fortunately a beautiful autumn day for a journey! I usually find the family trees confusing at first but am later glad to have them to refer to once I make it a good way into the book. Definitely looking forward to the Zoom discussion!


message 14: by Chris (new)

Chris Wolak (chriswolak) | 307 comments Mod
Barbara wrote: "Recently got this via interlibrary loan and have started to dig in. At page 33, I am finding it hard to keep all the characters straight, even with the genealogical chart in the opening pages. I am..."

I just started it last night and was also a bit confused, but just decided to roll with all the names in the hopes things would sort themselves out. They are, somewhat.


message 15: by Chris (new)

Chris Wolak (chriswolak) | 307 comments Mod
Karen wrote: "Just started Celestial Bodies. Finding the family tree in the front of the book awkward. Anyone else find it to be that way?

Looking forward to discussing this book. I love to learn about differe..."


Yes, I didn't find the chart very helpful initially. It is helping me put some things together as I read. Just started last night.


message 16: by Chris (new)

Chris Wolak (chriswolak) | 307 comments Mod
Emily wrote: "Just picked up my copy from the library. I fat-fingered the pickup location when I put it on hold and ended up having to drive 1.5 hours to pick it up when it arrived. Fortunately a beautiful autum..."

That's some awesome reader commitment, Emily! Glad the weather was nice for a drive.


Bethany | 5 comments Got my copy from the library! I emailed about being part of the zoom discussion but haven’t heard back, wondering if there’s still spots?


Nancy Motto | 15 comments I actually re-started this book after finding myself confused about fifty pages in. Using the family tree extensively to keep track of the characters. The one thought I have at this point is that the book is not exactly what I expected. Looking forward to the discussion


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

Deb | 49 comments Just started this. Trying to get the rhythm of the writing. Keep checking the family tree as well! Parts are hard to follow since they go back and for in time sentence at a time. I do like it so far.


message 20: by Emily (new) - added it

Emily | 259 comments Mod
Hi All! I started the audiobook and am really enjoying the narrator. She is doing a good job with voicing the different characters and I really appreciate hearing both the pronunciations of the names and the passages that are in Arabic. I'm at the chapter five mark and plan to circle back and read the book as well.
Who knew the name London could be so controversial!

How is everyone else progressing?


message 21: by Gail (new) - rated it 3 stars

Gail | 18 comments I just downloaded the audiobook..looking forward to my starting it on my walk tomorrow morning


Robin | 43 comments I have both the physical book and an audio version lined up. Hope to start soon!


Nancy Motto | 15 comments Finished this yesterday and I have to admit, I began skipping pages toward the end.


Karen | 19 comments I finished this book yesterday. I loved the writing style and format though it took me awhile to get into the swing of it. Looking forward to discussing on Nov 1.


message 25: by Emily (new) - added it

Emily | 259 comments Mod
Nancy wrote: "Finished this yesterday and I have to admit, I began skipping pages toward the end."

Love your honesty!


message 26: by Emily (new) - added it

Emily | 259 comments Mod
Karen wrote: "I finished this book yesterday. I loved the writing style and format though it took me awhile to get into the swing of it. Looking forward to discussing on Nov 1."

Looking forward to the discussion!


message 27: by Nancy (last edited Oct 14, 2020 01:21PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Nancy Motto | 15 comments I got thinking today about why the Man Booker committee chose Celestial Bodies as the winner of their international prize and who was the competition for the prize. There were four other nominees.
I put three on my TBR (one just didn't appeal at all) just to see if I agreed or disagreed with the committee. Two of the books are very short (just around 200 pages) but one is 528 pages so I may not get to that one, at least for a while.


message 28: by Jenny (Reading Envy) (last edited Oct 15, 2020 06:02AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jenny (Reading Envy) (readingenvy) | 33 comments A few resources that might add some context:

The author and translator on Amanpour & Co (3 minutes)

The Booker Judges on why they picked it (short)

I think the intention of the novel is to show more of a tableaux of what a country looks like through the lens of the women across generations in one family, in one village, rather than telling one individual story. (I always think it is important to examine what the author is intending to do!)


message 29: by Barbara (new) - added it

Barbara | 4 comments Phew! Just finished this and, I have to admit, I had to force myself to read to the end. I must have had to refer back to the genealogical chart at the beginning 100 times. I felt the structure didn’t help, jumping back and forth in time. And back and forth... I felt I was drowning. Speaking of which (spoiler ahead), what the heck was the significance of the last chapter. Was Muhammad drowned? Or I guess this all took place in Abdallah’s fantasies/imaginings. Does it even matter?
I”m ready for some Barbara Pym.


message 30: by Deb (new) - rated it 3 stars

Deb | 49 comments Finished! I did have a hard time with this one. I loved the descriptions of the Oman culture and the lives of the women. I got very lost as I read not knowing who was speaking or what time period I was in. I kept flipping to family chart. I can't wait to hear this discussion!!


Robin | 43 comments Finished the novel today. I did a combination of reading the novel and listening to the audio version. There is a delightful interview with the author that was captured during the Adelaide Festival here: https://soundcloud.com/adelaide-festi...
The translator of the novel was also her "supervisor" for her PhD in classical Arabic literature!

Looking forward to the discussion.


Melissa W (melissawiebe80) | 3 comments I read it as part of my Dewey's readathon on Saturday and quite enjoyed it. Found it really fascinating and like Chris mentioned on the podcast recently, it took me about 3/4 of the book to figure out what was going on.


Tricia | 17 comments Doing the audio version so I don't have access to the genealogical chart. Consume one posted? Very confusing with all the characters and time bouncing around here and there. And kind of looking at it more as a bunch of short stories in that gets me through each chapter better. I am curious though, Is Zarifa Abdallah's mother? Or is his mother unnamed?


message 34: by Chris (new)

Chris Wolak (chriswolak) | 307 comments Mod
Nancy wrote: "I got thinking today about why the Man Booker committee chose Celestial Bodies as the winner of their international prize and who was the competition for the prize. There were four other nominees. ..."

We all look forward to hearing what you think of the other books and the judges' selection.


message 35: by Chris (last edited Oct 27, 2020 03:51PM) (new)

Chris Wolak (chriswolak) | 307 comments Mod
Jenny (Reading Envy) wrote: "A few resources that might add some context:

The author and translator on Amanpour & Co (3 minutes)

The Booker Judges on why they picked it (short)

I think the intention of the novel is to show ..."


Thanks for the resources, Jenny. It is only fair to consider an author's stated intention (when there is one), in contrast to "reviewers" whose critique makes it clear they wanted the writer to write a different book than the one they have written.


message 36: by Chris (new)

Chris Wolak (chriswolak) | 307 comments Mod
Barbara wrote: "Phew! Just finished this and, I have to admit, I had to force myself to read to the end. I must have had to refer back to the genealogical chart at the beginning 100 times. I felt the structure did..."

Yay you for finishing! Barbara Pym to the rescue! And good question. We will discuss that on the Zoom call and readalong episode.


message 37: by Chris (new)

Chris Wolak (chriswolak) | 307 comments Mod
Deb wrote: "Finished! I did have a hard time with this one. I loved the descriptions of the Oman culture and the lives of the women. I got very lost as I read not knowing who was speaking or what time period I..."

Yay, Deb! I am enjoying the descriptions as well. It was challenging at times for sure.


message 38: by Chris (new)

Chris Wolak (chriswolak) | 307 comments Mod
Robin wrote: "Finished the novel today. I did a combination of reading the novel and listening to the audio version. There is a delightful interview with the author that was captured during the Adelaide Festival..."

Oooh, thanks for this resource, Robin. Will definitely listen to it.


message 39: by Chris (new)

Chris Wolak (chriswolak) | 307 comments Mod
Melissa W wrote: "I read it as part of my Dewey's readathon on Saturday and quite enjoyed it. Found it really fascinating and like Chris mentioned on the podcast recently, it took me about 3/4 of the book to figure ..."

Glad to hear you enjoyed it, Melissa. I wasn't able to do Dewey this time around and missed it. :(


message 40: by Chris (new)

Chris Wolak (chriswolak) | 307 comments Mod
Tricia wrote: "Doing the audio version so I don't have access to the genealogical chart. Consume one posted? Very confusing with all the characters and time bouncing around here and there. And kind of looking at ..."

I think his mother was Fatima. Zarifa is Abdallah's father's slave/mistress. (I think.)


message 41: by Chris (new)

Chris Wolak (chriswolak) | 307 comments Mod
Chris wrote: "Tricia wrote: "Doing the audio version so I don't have access to the genealogical chart. Consume one posted? Very confusing with all the characters and time bouncing around here and there. And kind..."

Here's a link to a photo of the family chart: https://www.goodreads.com/photo/group...

Hope it helps!


message 42: by Chris (new)

Chris Wolak (chriswolak) | 307 comments Mod
Here's a link to a photo of the family chart for those of you reading the audio version.

https://www.goodreads.com/photo/group...


Linda | 47 comments Mod
For a long time, I've commented that Catholic mothers played the guilt card as well as a Jewish mother. I think I should include Arab mothers too.


Linda | 47 comments Mod
Chris wrote: "Here's a link to a photo of the family chart for those of you reading the audio version.

https://www.goodreads.com/photo/group..."


Thanks, Chris. I'm reading the e-book through my library and this chart was not included (so far).


message 45: by Alicia (new) - added it

Alicia Salmon | 12 comments Oh finished. Had to push through. I thought it was me and where my head is right now but reading your comments confirmed it wasn’t just me. Couldn’t keep straight who was who. Too hard to follow. Would not have finished if it wasn’t for the read along. Look forward to the discussion.


message 46: by Colleen (last edited Nov 01, 2020 06:36AM) (new) - added it

Colleen (colleen_m_o_83) | 37 comments I think the non-linear structure, while hard to follow at first, lent itself well in exploring the relationships amongst the characters. The jumping back and forth through time allowed for a focus on characters and their connection to time, how their actions in the present were influenced by what happened to them in the past, or even what happened to their parents in the past.

I read the translator's note after I finished the novel and was delighted to read that the original title was "Ladies of the Moon." First, it reminds me of witchcraft, and I know that the Book Cougars take a stance in favor. Second, that one love story that Asma held up as her romantic ideal is based on Plato's Symposium, in which the 'Children of the Moon' were originally androgynous balls that were then split in half by the gods and now must seek to find their other half. (I actually have never read the Symposium, so if this is incorrect, I blame the musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch. There also were Children of the Earth - two females in one, and Children of the Sun - two males in one.). The idea of ownership of or belonging to someone or something (or many someones or a place) comes up often in this book -- literally in the case of slavery in Oman, but also I think with respect to a place, family, lover, and in marriage as well.

I'm glad I read this, though I think I've thought myself in circles about it. I guess it has provoked non-linear thoughts, which maybe is appropriate considering the novel's structure!

Looking forward to the Zoom!


Jenny (Reading Envy) (readingenvy) | 33 comments I think it's also a reflection of how time is actually viewed within the society. Everything always just happened... if that's true then grudges never die and power never changes hands....


message 48: by Tina (new) - rated it 3 stars

Tina (godmotherx5) | 37 comments I listened on audio and had to restart the book after I reached Chapter 4. The fresh start gave me a better perspective and allowed me to keep up with the characters. I did not have the family tree from the physical copy; yet, it did not seem to help others who did have it. I agree with Colleen's and Jenny's most recent summations and look forward to the Zoom chat.


message 49: by Chris (new)

Chris Wolak (chriswolak) | 307 comments Mod
Alicia wrote: "Oh finished. Had to push through. I thought it was me and where my head is right now but reading your comments confirmed it wasn’t just me. Couldn’t keep straight who was who. Too hard to follow. W..."

It was a stylistically challenging book to read during this time. My mind has a hard enough time focusing these days and so lately I prefer straightforward stories. I did a combination of reading and listening and am glad to have read it, but like you probably wouldn't have pushed through if we didn't have the discussion coming up.


message 50: by Chris (new)

Chris Wolak (chriswolak) | 307 comments Mod
Colleen wrote: "I think the non-linear structure, while hard to follow at first, lent itself well in exploring the relationships amongst the characters. The jumping back and forth through time allowed for a focus ..."

Colleen wrote: "I think the non-linear structure, while hard to follow at first, lent itself well in exploring the relationships amongst the characters. The jumping back and forth through time allowed for a focus ..."

I like how Khalid talked about how his art and imagination have become like his lost half. I think at one point he says it feels like his hand is missing if he doesn't have a paint brush in it. At times the nonlinear style made me think of how stories are told in families about the family and how people get things wrong about who said what and what/when/how happened and to whom.


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