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Virgin Earth

Virgin Earth

A Novel

  • reading group guide
As England descends into civil war, John Tradescant the Younger, gardener to King Charles I, finds his loyalties in question, his status an ever-growing danger to his family. Fearing royal defeat and determined to avoid serving the rebels, John escapes to the royalist colony of Virginia, a land bursting with fertility that stirs his passion for botany. Only the native American peoples understand the forest, and John is drawn to their way of life just as they come into fatal conflict with the colonial settlers. Torn between his loyalty to his country and family and his love for a Powhatan girl who embodies the freedom he seeks, John has to find himself before he is prepared to choose his direction in the virgin land.

In this enthralling, freestanding sequel to Earthly Joys, Gregory combines a wealth of gardening knowledge with a haunting love story that spans two continents and two cultures, making Virgin Earth a tour de force of revolutionary politics and passionate characters.
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  • Touchstone | 
  • 672 pages | 
  • ISBN 9780743289160 | 
  • April 2006
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Reading Group Guide

Touchstone Reading Group Guide
Virgin Earth
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, Hester, or his daughter, Frances?

  2. Virgin Earth is primarily concerned with English history and the story of an English man caught in the middle of tragic, but thrilling, times. Why, then, do you think Gregory chose to open the novel with John's first voyage to Virginia and his introduction to Suckahana?

  3. During John's first visit to Virginia, Mistress Whitely the Innkeeper tells him of the Indian rising of 1622 and the way the relationship between the Indians and settlers changed for the worse thereafter. How does the settlers' fear and hatred of the Indian "pagans" compare to the English persecution and abhorrence of Roman Catholics and "popists?"

  4. Two wars overshadow the events of this novel: King Charles I versus Parliament and the Powhatan versus the Virginian colonists. Compare and contrast these situations and John's role in each.

  5. Hester refuses to go with John to Virginia on his second voyage, which leads to a series of events that eventually lands him with Suckahana. Do you view Hester's decision as a betrayal? Is she at all res
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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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