Reading guide for The Surrendered by Chang-rae Lee

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The Surrendered

By Chang-rae Lee

The Surrendered
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  • Hardcover: Mar 2010,
    480 pages.
    Paperback: Mar 2011,
    496 pages.

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Book Reviewed by:
Judy Krueger

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Reading Guide Questions Print Excerpt

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!

  1. In the orphanage, June is a bully to the other children and shows affection only to Sylvie. Yet when we first meet her, she is incredibly caring to her sister and brother. What do you think caused this change in her personality? How did her experiences as a young girl shape the adult she became?

  2. Hector seems to develop true feelings for Dora. If things had ended differently in the final scene with Dora, do you think he would still have gone off with June? Why or why not? Do you think his experience with Sylvie colored his relationship with Dora? How?

  3. Do you think Sylvie and Tanner would have adopted June had things not happened the way they did turned out differently? Why or why not?

  4. June seems fixated on finding Nicholas even after it becomes clear that he is not who he says he is. Why do you think she is so focused? Why do you think she needs to find him?

  5. If you’ve read Chang-rae Lee’s work in the past, you know that he writes often of identity. How do these themes play out in The Surrendered? Of Hector, June, and Sylvie, which character do you think has the strongest sense of identity? The weakest?

  6. Each character undergoes a traumatic experience that ends up shaping the course of his or her life: Hector’s father’s death, June’s loss of her family, and Sylvie’s experience in Manchuria. How do these events change their characters? Do you think each person’s life would be different had these traumatic events not occurred?

  7. The book A Memory of Solferino recurs throughout the novel and is passed from Sylvie to June to Nicholas. What do you think the book means to each character and how does it influence the choices they make?

  8. Although The Surrendered is very much about war, the events of the Korean War itself make up a very small part of the book. Why do you think the author chose this approach? What point do you think he was making? How does this relate to his choice of title?

  9. Discuss the idea of mercy in the book. Which characters do you think most exemplify this trait? In which scenes does the idea of mercy seem to be the guiding force?

  10. Hector is born in the town of Ilion and is named after Hector in the Iliad. Discuss heroism in the book. Are any of the characters heroes? Do they behave heroically?

Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Riverhead Books. Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.

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