Reading guide for A Golden Age by Tahmima Anam

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A Golden Age

by Tahmima Anam

A Golden Age
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  • First Published:
    Jan 2008, 288 pages
    Paperback:
    Jan 2009, 304 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Stacey Brownlie

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Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!

Introduction

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 everyone—from student protesters to the country's leaders, from rickshaw wallahs to the army's soldiers—must 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
  1. 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 novel?
  2. 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?
  3. 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?
  4. 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.
  5. 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?
  6. 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?
  7. 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?
  8. 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?
  9. 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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