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READERS GUIDE

Reader’s Guide
The Last Russian Doll by Kristen Loesch
Discussion Questions:


1.         In the first chapter of The Last Russian Doll, Rosie finds a key in a porcelain doll’s head. Why do you think some people are drawn to dolls, and others find them repugnant? Do you find dolls to be uncanny or unsettling and, if so, why?

2.         One of the main themes explored in The Last Russian Doll is silence versus speaking up, and the potential power of one’s voice. By the end of the novel, Rosie is able to speak aloud about her troubled past and Tonya has discovered the depth of her storytelling talent. What, in
your view, is the significance of learning to tell your own story? Why might people choose not to?

3.         Are you sympathetic to morally gray characters such as the Countess Natalya Burtsinova? What do you think is Natalya’s moral code, if she has any?

4.         Rosie comments that names are just labels, whereas Lev thinks names have power. By the end, Rosie goes by Raisa. What is the significance of this change? Did you notice other name changes over the course of the novel?

5.         What do you think of Rosie’s assertion that when it comes to the truth about her family, “There’s an answer, and I’ll keep going until I have it. However long it takes”? Do you agree that discovering the truth about a painful event in the past is worth that kind of effort? Why or why not?

6.         How would you describe Tonya when we first meet her, in 1916? Contrast this with Tonya when we last see her, in 1992. Which life experiences, in your view, have shaped her the most? In an alternate reality, one without those experiences, what do you think Tonya’s life might have been like?

7.         What do you think of the relationship between Tonya and Viktoria? How do you think they are able to forgive each other? Are their actions unforgivable? Why or why not?

8.         Tonya and Valentin’s romance spans almost eight decades. Russian literature is known for its epic romances, many of which end tragically. What is the appeal of an epic love story? How does the enduring nature of the relationship between Valentin and Tonya contrast with the chaos and instability of the world in which they live? How would you feel if The Last Russian Doll had a different ending?

9.         Katya erases the dedication to Lena in her mother’s notebook, but Rosie is able to decipher it years later. How does this symbolize the way the past can endure into the present? Can the past ever be fully erased? Should we try? Why or why not?

10.       Do you think that Alexey got the ending he deserved?

11.        The different layers of a matryoshka, or Russian nesting doll, are often depicted with the dolls holding various objects in their hands: one might hold a basket of strawberries, another a baby, another a bird. (The innermost doll can be so small that you can’t even tell what it’s holding!) Imagine the three generations of women in this novel were one matryoshka. Tonya would be the outermost and the largest, with Katya within. Rosie would be the smallest. What would each of the three of them be holding, and why?
 
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