About the book:
“The Hunters,” the second novella, is narrated by an American academic spending a summer in London who grows obsessed by the neighbors downstairs. Ridley Wandor, a plump and insipid caretaker of the elderly, lives with her ever-unseen mother and a horde of pet rabbits she calls “the hunters.” While the narrator researches a book about death, all of Ridley Wandor’s patients are dying. Loneliness breeds an active imagination. Is having such an imagination always destructive? Or can it be strong enough to create a new reality?
Far-flung settings and universal themes give a sweeping appeal to Claire Messud’s work.
About the author:
Claire Messud, born in 1966, was educated at Yale and Cambridge. Her first novel, When the World Was Steady, was a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award in 1996. Her second novel, The Last Life, received widespread positive critical attention, and has been translated into seven languages. She lives in Northampton, Massachusetts.
Discussion Questions for The Hunters:
Q. What might explain the narrator’s being drawn to “the suggestion of society, without its actual impingement” and the narrator’s admitted “carefully controlled existence”? Why does the narrator feel invisible? What are the causes and consequences of this sense of invisibility? At the same time, why has the narrator selected this flat in what Richard Copley later calls “a voyeur’s paradise”?
Q. What are the roles and consequences of loneliness, isolation and seclusion, and dislocation in “The Hunters”? Are these conditions chosen by the characters, and if so, why; or are they imposed upon the characters, and if so, from what source?
Q. Why is Ridley Wandor’s very existence, from their first meeting, “irredeemable, heinous, utterly unpardonable” for the narrator? Why is the narrator’s one wish that “she would not be,” and what are the implications and the consequences of that wish?
Q. Who or what are “the hunters,” and who or what are the hunted? What variations of the two conditions occur? What transformations from hunted to hunter and vice versa occur?
Q. “It was difficult to think of her life as anything but a story,” comments the narrator, referring to the discovery of the facts of Ridley Wandor’s “story.” In what ways does that statement indicate the nature and extent of the narrator’s understanding of self and others? What might be the dangers of thinking of anyone’s life, including one’s own, as “anything but a story”? What might be the relationship between any life and the story of that life?
Q. Why is the narrator unable, even when recognizing “the true agony of Ridley Wandor’s days,” to “believe in the sorrows of others”? Why does the narrator persist in feeling “my sorrows to be by far the greatest, my wounds the source of the only real blood”? What does it take for the narrator and for each of us to accurately perceive and empathize with the sorrows of others?
Q. If, as the narrator repeatedly states, “I’m guilty,” guilty of what? To what extent might the narrator’s guilt be a guilt shared by/with all of us?