02-08-2008 01:04 PM
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.
02-10-2008 09:51 PM
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.
02-11-2008 09:37 AM
02-12-2008 01:30 PM
02-12-2008 03:52 PM
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.
02-12-2008 08:55 PM
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?
02-12-2008 09:17 PM
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.
02-13-2008 04:27 PM
02-14-2008 08:13 PM
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?
02-15-2008 01:48 PM
02-19-2008 09:30 PM
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?
02-20-2008 12:19 PM