Book Clubs

The following questions are at the back of The Tsarina’s Legacy (I’ve omitted one question which contains a major spoiler). Feel free to contact me via Facebook or Twitter if you have any other questions about the book or would like to chat.

READING GROUP GUIDE QUESTIONS

The Tsarina’s Legacy

Jennifer Laam

  • At the beginning of the story, Grisha Potemkin struggles with the appeals of a spiritual life versus a career at Catherine’s court. Later, Platon Zubov declares Grisha’s devotion to God, “merely a different type of ambition.” Do you agree with this assessment? Why would a cosmopolitan man of the court simultaneously feel drawn to the life of a monk?
  • Clearly, Grisha views the construction of a mosque as atonement. Are there additional reasons the project appeals to him? What is the nature of Grisha’s relationship with other cultures and the pasha who continually appears to him? Is Grisha an imperialist conqueror or is his worldview more nuanced?
  • When Grisha returns to St. Petersburg, Catherine is in the thrall of a much younger lover, Platon Zubov. Grisha then romantically challenges this rival for Catherine’s affection. Are we more accustomed to seeing women use their sexuality to curry a monarch’s favor? In what ways do Platon and Grisha retain their masculinity while serving under and loving a female ruler?
  • Grisha’s attempts to rekindle his romance with Catherine lead to conflict and quarrels between them. Do you think Grisha was more useful to Catherine politically when he kept his distance from her physically? Is this why he remained a trusted friend and advisor even after he ceased to be her lover? Or is it possible he was simply more talented than her other favorites?
  • At one point, Grisha notes that Catherine must hide her emotions from her subjects, even a subject as close to her as himself. As a female monarch, did Catherine need to take special care to control her emotions? What other challenges might she have faced as a result of her gender?
  • In the present day, Veronica comes to Russia to help protest anti-gay legislation and suppression of free speech. Is the Russian “gay propaganda” law well-known in other countries? Are incidents of violence against LGBT individuals in Russia covered in the west? How do you feel about the news coverage?
  • Veronica finds her connection to the last royal family has already made her something of a celebrity in Russia. Do you think this is realistic and if so, why are we still fascinated with the last Romanovs? With royalty in general? In what ways can celebrities sway public opinion and affect change?
  • Veronica is continually drawn to both Catherine the Great and Grisha Potemkin, and wonders how they would react to intolerance in present day Russia. Given what we know of their personalities, how might Catherine and Grisha operate as modern day politicians? Is it possible to draw inspiration from historical figures to address problems in the present day?
  • Both Veronica and Grisha are childless, but not necessarily by choice. How does this impact each of them? How does it affect the way they are perceived by others? Is it more difficult to navigate the world as a childless woman as opposed to a childless man?