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Earthly Joys

Earthly Joys

A Novel

  • reading group guide
#1 New York Times bestselling author and “queen of royal fiction” (USA TODAY) Philippa Gregory brings to life the passionate, turbulent times of seventeenth-century England as seen through the eyes of the country’s most famous royal gardener.

John Tradescant’s fame and skill as a gardener are unsurpassed in seventeenth-century England, but it is his clear-sighted honesty and loyalty that make him an invaluable servant. As an informal confidant of Sir Robert Cecil, adviser to King James I, he witnesses the making of history, from the Gunpowder Plot to the accession of King Charles I and the growing animosity between Parliament and court.

Tradescant’s talents soon come to the attention of the most powerful man in the country, the irresistible Duke of Buckingham, the lover of King Charles I. Tradescant has always been faithful to his masters, but Buckingham is unlike any he has ever known: flamboyant, outrageously charming, and utterly reckless. Every certainty upon which Tradescant has based his life—his love of his wife and children, his passion for his work, his loyalty to his country—is shattered as he follows Buckingham to court, to war, and to the forbidden territories of human love.
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  • Touchstone | 
  • 528 pages | 
  • ISBN 9780743272520 | 
  • June 2005
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Reading Group Guide

Touchstone Reading Group Guide
Earthly Joys
By Philippa Gregory
1. Authors often challenge themselves by writing from the point of view of characters of the opposite sex. Do you think Gregory does a convincing job of creating her main male character, John Tradescant? Do you think he is more or less realistic than the women in this novel, such as his wife, Elizabeth, or his daughter-in-law, Jane?
2. Sir Robert Cecil teaches John that "practice over principle" is the surest path to success and, in dangerous times, the wisest path all around. Do you agree with him? Why or why not?
3. John seeks a higher purpose and seems to find it when he realizes that collecting and displaying an array of rare plants is to honor the glory of God. Yet, his conventional and religious wife resents his traveling to achieve this goal. What is it that bothers Elizabeth so much? Do you think John's motivations for traveling change as the novel progresses? Do you think he is being honest with himself about those motivations?
4. There is much talk in Earthly Joys, particularly between John and his family, about the "Divine order" that keeps every man, woman, and child in a proscribed place of servitude and responsibility. How do you feel about this philosophy? How does John argue against Elizabeth who says, "You are a gardener-so stay at home and garden?"
5. Gregory sprinkles her historical fiction with colorful and delightful scandal. How does re see more

About the Author

Philippa Gregory
Photo credit Santi U

Philippa Gregory

Philippa Gregory is the author of several bestselling novels, including The Other Boleyn Girl, and is a recognized authority on women’s history. Her Cousins’ War novels are the basis for the critically acclaimed Starz miniseries The White Queen. She studied history at the University of Sussex and received a PhD from the University of Edinburgh. She welcomes visitors to her website, PhilippaGregory.com.

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