Reading guide for The Confusion of Languages by Siobhan Fallon

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The Confusion of Languages

by Siobhan Fallon

The Confusion of Languages by Siobhan Fallon X
The Confusion of Languages by Siobhan Fallon
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  • First Published:
    Jun 2017, 336 pages

    Jun 2018, 336 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Poornima Apte
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Reading Guide Questions Print Excerpt

Please be aware that this discussion guide will contain spoilers!

  1. Discuss Fallon's portrayal of Amman and the Middle East. Were you surprised by any aspects of Jordanian culture? How is life in Amman different than life in the United States? How does life at the US embassy fit in between the two? Why do you think Fallon chose to write about Amman through the perspective of two Western women?
  2. The novel explores two marriages. How did you feel about Cassie and Dan in the beginning of the novel? Did you feel differently at the end? How does your understanding of Margaret's marriage change as we discover her diary?
  3. Cassie and Margaret are two very different women with two very distinct approaches to life overseas. Did you relate to one woman more than the other?
  4. What does it mean to be a good friend? Is Cassie a good friend to Margaret? Why or why not? Is Margaret right to befriend Hassan?
  5. Have you ever kept a journal? Why do you think Cassie decides to read Margaret's journal? Do you agree with her decision? If you were left alone in a friend's apartment and uncovered a diary, would you be tempted to take a look? Be honest!
  6. Cassie thinks that Margaret "doesn't recognize that the line between us and them is real. She's infected with our great American hubris of assuming that deep down every single person wants the same thing: autonomy, freedom, democracy, independence. I try to tell Margaret things here are different, that our American tolerance, even veneration, of the rule-breaker is not shared in a place where the literal translation of the name of the faith, Islam, means 'submission'" (p. 45). Do you agree with her? How do you think our American values shape the way we understand others?
  7. Discuss how Fallon explores military life. How does setting this story at the US embassy change the portrayal of Amman? Does it shape how the characters understand the Middle East? How are Cassie's and Margaret's marriages affected by their husbands' work?
  8. Margaret tells Cassie, "There's only kindness" (p. 323). What does she mean? Why do you think Margaret believes this? How does Margaret's saying change Cassie?
  9. Discuss the novel's treatment of motherhood. Is Margaret a good mother to Mather? How has she been changed by the death of her own mother? How does Cassie's desire to be a mother affect her relationship with Dan? How does it change her friendship with Margaret?
  10. Why do you think Fallon chose to set the story in 2011, during the Arab Spring? How does the political climate of Jordan affect the characters? How would the story be different if it was set in today's Middle East?
  11. Were you surprised by the ending?

Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of G.P. Putnam's Sons. 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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