Ideas for Book Club Questions
Hanoi, adieu has been reviewed as a story of love and friendship and war and peace. It has also been reviewed as history. Which of these descriptions do you think fits it best?
Can you draw any parallels with what happened in this book and what is happening in the world today?
How did Michel’s stint in the army and his experience of the execution affect his psyche in terms of his French identity?
Michel was betrayed to the Japanese by a longstanding family servant, yet he was not surprised. Why was this so?
Jo was a mettise, (French/Vietnamese) and in her fifties. She was also a brothel owner and an opium addict, an unlikely friend and confidante for someone like Michel. Why then, did their relationship develop into such a close one?
Michel felt strongly that the political vacuum created by leaving the French military imprisoned after the Japanese surrender in north Vietnam, allowed the Communists to become established in North Vietnam? Discuss.
Discuss how at the end of World War II, the events in south Vietnam differed from the events in the north, and what was the result?
Michel was with his family-to-be the night the colons had to abandon their plantations, leaving the privileged life they had known. It was an emotional time, but after the war when they tried to get their land back, Michel was more sympathetic with the view of General Le Clerc. Discuss.
Many of Michel’s contemporaries at school and university in Hanoi went on to become leaders in Vietnam’s Nationalist movement, and Michel had sympathy for their cause. But his high school history teacher, Vo Nguyen Giap, became a General and Commander in Chief of the communist Vietminh and went on to lead the war against both the French and the Americans. How do you think Michel would have felt?
Michel chose to stay on and try and raise a family in Hanoi when most other French civilians had left. Why do you think he retained his optimism for so long?
Discuss how Michel’s deep affection for Vietnam and the Vietnamese remained even after all that had happened in the country.