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robertafking
Posts: 7
Registered: ‎02-07-2008
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Leper Compound discussion

Hello!
I read The Leper Compound recently and thought it was an intriguing and compelling book. I'm hoping others will want to discuss it, too. (My hometown book group won't discuss until the end of February).
Colleen's story is disquieting to me.
Being in a community, but not really part the community itself; wanting to accept and be accepted in a place, but not ever really being allowed in. And all those unresolved and complicated relationships . . . the people in her school, her father, her sister, the baby Ramona and her lover. Yet, Colleen feels complete and genuine to me, as a reader. This is an interesting aspect of the book and the character.
I love the author's wry sense of observation, sometimes the most curious things catch her eye. While usually I like books with more outright humor, there were scenes in The Leper Compound that made me smile.
Also, the cross cultural references - the Shona, Afrikaans and British words sometimes cause me to read more carefully and think about what it means or how it translates. Wondering how others find these details.
Peace,
Roberta
Blogger
ande
Posts: 442
Registered: ‎04-07-2007
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Re: Leper Compound discussion

Thank you, Roberta. Paula will be with us next week, so it's great to see your comments. I hope others will jump in.
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SaskiaR
Posts: 2
Registered: ‎02-10-2008
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Re: Leper Compound discussion

Hi! I have also read The Leper Compound recently. I found it to be moving as well as extremely honest. While still giving a sense of the transformation of Rhodesia to Zimbabwe, it went much deeper than just a war between two different groups of people. Colleen seems vulnerable and lonely, wanting to be acknowledged in a community but being unable to do so due to a race barrier.
Yes, the cross cultural references were thought provoking. They made me think more about the meaning of the words and also gave me a stronger sense of the culture and the people.
I really enjoyed the novel and am hoping others are open to discussion.
Saskia
Blogger
ande
Posts: 442
Registered: ‎04-07-2007
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Re: Leper Compound discussion

Welcome to Book Explorers. Always great to have new voices in the conversation. Is there a specific part of the book or character you would like to discuss?

Ande
Contributor
robertafking
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Registered: ‎02-07-2008
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Re: Leper Compound discussion

Great. I am looking forward to the discussion. This on-line book group idea is pretty interesting. I think Paula's insight and familiarity will help me get a better grasp on the book.
Author
Paula_Nangle
Posts: 12
Registered: ‎02-08-2008
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Re: Leper Compound discussion

Roberta,

I liked reading your thoughts.

Place details and other language words -- always a challenge to find a balance. I tend to go light on these words, or try to find a way to fit them into the context. Reading 19th century novels (I love them), I'd always get confused when they used French statements. I would feel like I was missing something and read and reread the dialogue around it. But Shona, Ndebele, Xhosa, Afrikaans, as well as the British words, are certainly all part of the southern African world and I enjoyed including a few of them -- couldn't resist anyway.

Living in Michigan now, it takes some thought calling up the physical details of Africa. Possibly I've emphasized them to refamiliarize myself at times. One of the chapters, the first one, was originally in a special issue of Michigan Quarterly Review
called "Reimagining Place." I actually concentrated on those images, made them a priority. In later chapters, I found myself taking them for granted -- their presence was in the background.

Arundhati Roy's THE GOD OF SMALL THINGS is a model for me. I learned so much about India from the details in this novel. I feel I've seen that river. I've a strange sense of having been there.

Paula


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Author
Paula_Nangle
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Registered: ‎02-08-2008
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Re: Leper Compound discussion

Saskia,

Thank you for your comment -- I'm glad you liked the book.

Colleen: vulnerable. I agree at times. She is different from me, in that I fume and fuss about things, and object to situations. When I first imagined her, I'd just read LITHIUM FOR MEDEA by Kate Braverman, which, I noticed recently, is in print again. It was almost relaxing for me to write her, since she does not protest in any usual way. Sometimes she seems more wise than I ever could have been. At other times, I would like to stand in for her. Mostly, I think she is very close to Sarah, in terms of developing schizophrenia. She seems, as Lise Clavel in The San Francisco Chronicle put it, "confused, divided." Are there places you find her more vulnerable than others?

Paula


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SaskiaR
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Re: Leper Compound discussion

Paula,
In my opinion, Colleen's most vulnerable moments are in the chapter "The Cry Room." The setting is in a hospital in Cape Town, and her infant, Gavin, is undergoing open heart surgery. I can imagine that this would be a difficult situation for any mother, and Colleen's sleep deprivation and anxiety about Gavin's operation lead her to believe that she has smothered another mother's baby. I found this to be one of the most powerful chapters in the book.
Saskia
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robertafking
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Re: Leper Compound discussion

Saskia, I agree. The chapter was totally chilling and I re-read it over and over. The was it real or was it a dream sequence was well done. I still wonder . . . Roberta
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robertafking
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Re: Leper Compound discussion

Hi Paula,
I can't imagine trying to go back in time for all the "right" words and phrases that are captured in your book. An amazing feat. Did you keep a lot of journals while you were living in S. Africa? Did you keep them and use them as references?
Did this passage of time make your book less of your own story and more of Colleen's?
Roberta
Author
Paula_Nangle
Posts: 12
Registered: ‎02-08-2008
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Re: Leper Compound discussion

Roberta,
 
I have used journals from the 70's/80's as resources, though I cringe sometimes to read them -- my adolescent fervor dominates everything! But that emotion is probably what has kept the memories vivid. 
 
We also visited southern Africa in 2000-2001 and I kept an image journal, which I used up rather quickly.
 
Yes, the elapsed time has made it easier to move away from memoir toward Colleen's story. I did not want to write about being an active missionary's daughter, or get into the religious issues. It seemed best to make those things peripheral, at least for this novel. That decision was made early on -- I felt, in a way, that I would be imitating Kingsolver's wonderful novel, THE POISONWOOD BIBLE. In this book, I've explored religion (a little) and Colleen's curiosity about other beliefs certainly paralleled mine. But her life - she's without a mother, has one sibling -- has been different than mine, what I imagine I might have been in those circumstances.
 
Paula
 
 
 


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robertafking
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Registered: ‎02-07-2008
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Re: Leper Compound discussion

Hi Paula,
This question is kind out off track, but I'm curious as to what makes coming of age such a ripe time for characters in books and stories. All the best books seem to be written at this point between 13 and 17 years of age, which for most people, the characters included is really the worst time of life.
Do you have any observations?
Roberta
Author
Paula_Nangle
Posts: 12
Registered: ‎02-08-2008
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Re: Leper Compound discussion

Roberta,
 
Thinking about your question, my mind first jumped to exceptions, in novels and especially short stories. But, no doubt, coming of age is a frequent narrative. Sometimes stories placed in the character's adulthood turn out to still be frames for an event in adolescence. You mentioned that this is often the worst time in life. I think this is why people want to write and read about it. There's no real story without something wrong. And the mistakes made at this age can be catastrophic: one is reminded of them throughout life. It's also such an impressionistic time (at least reflecting on it seems that way), and the characters are evolving.
 
Paula 


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