Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
TOPICS AND QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION
The following are intended to enrich your conversation and help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for approaching this novel.
Discuss the idea, as reflected in the title, of the past being more modern than the present.
The novel opens with the words "When I look back I see myself at twenty, I was at an age when anything seemed possible." How different, if at all, would this novel been if Evelyn had been twenty-five? Thirty-five?
How is art in its many forms, including music, painting, and architecture, used to express the concept of modernity in this book?
What are possible motives for Evelyn's "Uncle Joe" to arrange her emigration to Palestine?
Evelyn's lifeboth in England and Palestineis shaped by four very different men. Discuss the viewpoints of Palestine as shown in the characters of "Uncle Joe," Meier, Johnny, and Herr Blum.
How alike or different are Evelyn's encounters with anti-Semitism in England and in Palestine?
Mid-novel, Evelyn states that she "discovered there are two countries called Palestine." Do you agree, and if so, what are the two?
How do the people she meets and her experiences change Evelyn: in England, at the kibbutz, en route to Tel Aviv, and in Tel Aviv?
On page 180, Evelyn says that "Because I was English and not American, came from a place with a continuous past, I did not understand then that when immigrants settle, they try to rebuild the land of their origins." Do you agree with Evelyns observation?
As the novel draws to a close, the author creates a conversation between the younger and the older Evelyn. The young Evelyn asks the elder "Why are you so interested in the past? It's the future that counts," to which the elder replies, "The past is everything. You'll see." Both in the context of the novel and out of it, which Evelyn do you agree with?
Reproduced with the permission of Dutton, a division of Penguin Putnam.
Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Plume.
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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