Kirsten Tranter
  • Reading Groups

For The Legacy

1. How well does the author capture the sense of Julia as an outsider looking in on the various worlds of the novel?

2. Do you remember having the intense, loaded friendships these characters experience? Have they changed over time or did they simply come to an end?

3. Why did Ingrid marry Grey? Was Julia right when she imagined that Ingrid’s self-possession might finally be pierced by love?

4. The prologue is from Ingrid’s perspective. How different would the book have been if the rest of the story had not been told through Julia’s eyes? Is Julia a more revealing protagonist than Ingrid might have been?

5. Ralph is both utterly privileged and entirely limited by his illness, and by his unrequited love. Do these contradictions add up to a three-dimensional human? What is your response to his expectations of Julia?

6. Do you think all three of the protagonists are freed by the conclusion of the novel? What do you imagine each of them doing with their lives one year after the story ends? Whose fate do you care about the most?

7. At the end of The Legacy Julia says that she would make a hopeless detective, and the story deliberately plays with classic mystery plots such as Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep. In what ways is The Legacy different from or similar to a conventional mystery or detective story?

8. What is the significance of September 11 in the story? Did The Legacy make you reassess your own ideas about the meaning of September 11?

9. Visual representation is a major focus of the story, in the form of both paintings and photographs. What questions does the story raise about the relationship between art and truth, or representation and reality?

10. The Legacy borrows from Henry James’s novel The Portrait of a Lady, in which young, beautiful Isabel Archer’s life is changed and ultimately destroyed by an unexpected inheritance. She abandons her dreams of independence in order to marry a man who turns out to be ‘the deadliest of fiends’ and makes her ‘the unhappiest of women’, and yet she refuses to leave him — or so it seems. How does The Legacy change, twist and update elements from its source, and to what end?