Thursday, 4 June 2009

Book Club: The Reluctant Fundamentalist

I attended a book club last night as part of my "need to get out more" plan. I had only attended a book club once before, in England, where I turned out to be the youngest there by a good few decades. It was not a success. But, nothing ventured etc. So I signed up for the first available book club (there are a few running for expats in Amsterdam) on the grounds that I had already read the book and therefore there was a good chance that I would be able to contribute to a discussion.

Last night's book was The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Moshin Hamid. I admit, I was slightly nervous going into the discussion. I found the book utterly brilliant but it deals with difficult and challenging issues which can provoke and polarise people. Generally, my two conversational rules with strangers are to avoid religion and politics. This walked into the bear pit of both. Fortunately, the book group consisted of smart, intelligent women with a lot to say. I needn't have worried. Not that I agreed with everything everyone said, nor they with me, I'm sure. However, it felt as though everyone in a group of 15 or so chipped in an opinion at some point. Opinions which made me think, or made me reavaluate, or made me say "oh, I never thought of it that way, I wonder if that means...". In short, I loved it. Today, I am still rolling around the following questions:

- Did the protagonist's relationship with Erica reflect his relationship with America?
- The protagonist changed his personality to fit into the role required of him by others, boyfriend, employee etc. When he returns to Pakistan, does he change his personality again to fit in or are we seeing his true personality?
- The concept of fundamentalism is not given a structured definition in the book, is it referring to religious fundamentalism or something else and if so what?

I am a book hound, reading one to two books a week (it is my most expensive vice). I did English literature to degree level and have a real passion for books, all books, any books. What I realised last night is that since we moved to Amsterdam I had got out of the habit of discussing books. The lovely husband doesn't read fiction (he loves non-fiction, history, political biography), whereas I used to discuss books all the time with friends and we would swap them amongst ourselves I don't have that network here and so my book discussions have somewhat dried up.

Next month the group are reading The Shack by WM Paul Young and the following month we will be reading The Other Hand by Chris Cleave. I'll let you know how it goes.


  1. I'm also part of a lady's book club but haven't been in an embarrassingly long time! Our next book: Wake Up by Jack Kerouac. The one just passed: Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marissha Pessl. Neither of those jump out at me but I'll try to make this next Kerouac one.

  2. Wow - those look so intellectual. I'm not sure I could keep up the pace...