The Revolution of Marina M
by Janet Fitch


West Maui Book Club Discussion Questions

Please feel free to use them, online or off, with attribution. Aloha and mahalo for visiting our site!
Any page numbers refer to iPad edition.


1) Did it trouble you to come upon the dream vision (pg 647) of her uncle Vadim “laying out on rocks in California wearing nothing but a loincloth” when the only mention of Carmel, CA was in the opening chapter on page 1? Did you forget this was to be the first book?

2) What can you say about the foreshadowing for what lies ahead when Marina discusses the difference between flotsam and jetsam with her question: “Did it survive after shredding those such as myself, tossing us overboard-jetsam-to lighten the load, or did if founder, to be torn apart, mastless and rudderless, the planks and boards washed ashore-flotsam-perhaps one bearing the ship’s name. And the name was…Revolution.” (flotsam=debris left from a shipwreck, jetsam=load discarded overboard to lighten a ‘ship in crisis”)

3) Discuss the importance of poetry to Marina and her group. What can you detect from her saying, “I suppose they cannot imagine what a person might be called upon to endure, when a line of poetry can mean the difference between strength and despair.”

4) Discuss how hot wax and candles are important throughout the novel. For example in Part 1, ch 2, where the witches swirl wax to tell her future: “A sun, a seal, a wedding ring. A house, a plow, a prison cell. On St. Basil’s Eve, we cast the wax in water. And the country too had poured its wax in the year of the 9 and the 6.” Hers includes a ship—travel and adventure…or a metaphor for another kind of journey…something that never occurred to her its final dimensions, its scope, or nature of her journey. And then again in Ch 55 when she makes the analogy how hot wax can burn your throat and choke you at the same time.

5) Discuss how throughout the novel, Marina’s personal growth coincides with that of Russia’s and those persons important to her. Discuss the instability of time during revolutionary evolution.

6) Marina was trapped between several loves, on particular: Genya, Kolya, and Petrograde. To whom or which do you believe she held the most loyalty? Discussion Questions
Please feel free to use them, online or off, with attribution.

We'll add publisher questions if and when they're available; in the meantime, please use our LitLovers talking points to help start a discussion for The Revolution of Marina M. … then take off on your own:

1. Describe Marina. Early on in the novel, she leads a life of privilege, yet she is dissatisfied. Why? What does she want? (Okay, sex...but what else?) Do you admire her? In what ways does Marina change over the course of the novel?

2. Follow-up to Question 1: Near the beginning of the novel, Marina says, I was in love with the Future, in love with the idea of Fate. There's nothing more romantic to the young — until its dogs sink their teeth into your calf and pull you to the ground.
Do you think she is correct: that the idea of future or fate (which one is she actually referring to … or is it both?) is exciting to the young? As you read through the novel, at what point did fate stop being romantic for Marina? When did the the dogs start to "sink their teeth into [her] calf"? By the end of the novel, has Marina changed? In her outlook? Or in her essential character traits? What, if anything, has she learned?

3. What is the political state of Russia early on in the book? Marina describes history as "the sound of a floor underneath a rotten regime, termite-ridden and ready to fall." She is obviously referring to the government of the Czar. In what way is the regime "rotten" and "ready to fall"?

4. Why are the reforms offered up by Premier Prince Lvov — the promise of freedom of speech and assembly, the right to strike, and elections by ballot — insufficient for the radicals? What causes the provisional government to fail?

5. Talk about the effect that Leon Trotsky has as he addresses the crowd at the Cirque Moderne. Is he a typical demagogue out for power and self-aggrandizement? Or does he offer genuine path of reform for the Russian people?

6. What do you think of Marina's best friend Varvara and their relationship? In the fervor of revolution, was Varvara right or wrong in persuading Marina to spy on her father? And what about her father's outing of his daughter?

7. Describe the conditions of life for the population in the months following the October 17 overthrow? How grim is it?

8. Baron Arkady von Princip. Care to talk about him? What was your experience reading about the S&M he subjects Marina to?

9. Returning to the quotation in Question 2 — about how youthful romanticism can turn into a vicious animal — what do you see as the thematic concern of The Revolution of Marina M.? Is it how young people come of age in the midst of life's trials? Is it what happens to bonds of love and loyalty during social and political upheaval? Is a cautionary tale about how revolutions can turn more repressive than the regimes they replace? Or perhaps it's simply offered as a bird's eye view into one of the great events of the 20th century, one that shaped Western politics for decades to come. Or is it something else?

10. What have you learned about the October 17 Revolution that you did not know before reading Janet Fitch's novel? What surprised you most? What did you find most disturbing, maybe horrifying? Where did you find your sympathies falling: with the victors or the vanquished?

11. The novel is 800 pages long. Too long for you? Do you feel the author made some unnecessary detours in order to ramp up the plot line? Or do Marina's many adventures — as a sex slave, as part of a spiritual cult, living with the astronomers — enhance the story for you, giving it life and color?

Questions compiled by:
Elaine Gallant
West Maui Book Club
April, 2019