A list of questions to help stimulate discussions in book groups and classrooms.
Natasha’s family is outside the mainstream in China as well as in Australia. In what ways were their experiences different in the two countries?
Elena did not clash with Aunt Vera like Natasha did. What aspects of Natasha’s personality caused this?
Even though the book is written in English, the characters are mostly speaking in Russian. Did the author convey the feeling that this was happening? How?
The book is set in 1950’s Australia when life was different from today? How does the author convey the feeling of this different time? Are there examples that you can cite?
In what ways does Communism affect the family’s history?
Papa works as a motor mechanic in Australia. What occupations might have suited him better and why was he unable to achieve any position like that?
Natasha is torn between wanting to remain Russian and wanting to become Australian. Does she resolve this dilemma?How?
Babushka is very religious but the rest of the family is less so. Does this cause conflict or are family members tolerant of diverse views? What are some of these different views?
Are the flashbacks of the family’s history before coming to Australiaa distraction from the main story? How do the flashbacks shape the family’s view of itself?
Several episodes in the book highlight issues of immigrants. What are some of these issues and how are the problems of the older generation different to the problems of younger people? Do you feel that Natasha will one day feel like a true Australian?
What are some of the themes that run through the book?
Is the book relevant to today’s young people?
What do you imagine happens to Natasha when she grows up? What about Jan, Gina and Vladimir?
Were Australians in the 1950’s more dismissive of immigrants than Americans today?
Is the point of view of the novel bleak or optimistic?
Are there themes in the novel that you can apply to your own life?
Have a question for the author? Would you like her to telephone conference into your book group discussion? Contact Katherine McCaughan at firstname.lastname@example.org.