Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
Rehana Haque, a
young widow transplanted to the city of
Dhaka in East Pakistan, is fiercely devoted
to her adolescent children, Maya and Sohail.
Both become fervent nationalists in the
violent political turmoil which, in 1971,
transforms a brutal Pakistani civil war into
a fight to the death for Bangladeshi
independence. Fair-minded and intensely
protective of her family, but not at all
political, Rehana is sucked into the
conflict in spite of herself. A story of
passion and revolution, of family,
friendship and unexpected heroism, A
Golden Age depicts the chaos of an era
and the choices everyonefrom student
protesters to the country's leaders, from
rickshaw wallahs to the army's soldiersmust
make. Rehana herself will face a cruel
dilemma; the choice she makes is at once
heartbreaking and true to the character we
have come to love and respect.
Questions for Discussion
A Golden Age opens with the
lines: 'Dear Husband, I lost our children
today'. How important is Rehana's
relationship with her dead husband and how
does this relationship change throughout the
Maya is shocked when Rehana uses her
treasured saris to sew blankets for the
troops. How significant is Maya's own choice
of clothing and why do you think she dresses
the way she does?
Tahmima Anam was not alive during the
Bangaldesh War of Independence. Instead, she
relied on the memories of others to help her
to write this fictionalised account of the
period. What role does fiction play in
helping us to understand the historical and
political events that have shaped our world?
When they first meet, the Major thanks Rehana for giving up her house to help the
cause and says, 'The whole nation is
grateful'. Has Rehana given up her house for
the nation or for her children? Find another
example in the novel when a character acts
for reasons that are clear to themselves but
perhaps not to others.
Early on in Sohail's time as a freedom
fighter he refers to a dead person as a
casualty. Are there occasions in the novel
when the horror of war is shown to affect
Sohail in a more emotional way?
Towards the end of the novel, Rehana
feels that she belongs to Bangaldesh, but it
is the love for her children that ultimately
binds her to the country. What does it mean
to belong to a country? Do you only belong
to a country if you are born there?
How does Rehana feel about her past
and her family in Karachi and how is this
divide between past and present echoed in
the changing geography of Pakistan?
Rehana refuses to save her
brother-in-law from being arrested for war
crimes. Do you think she did the right thing
and would you do the same?
Rehana has to make several critical
decisions in order to protect her children.
Does she ultimately sacrifice her own
happiness as a woman so that she can fulfil
her role as a mother?
Questions courtesy of Hachette Australia.
Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Harper Perennial.
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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