Skip to main content

Reading Group Guide

Discussion Questions


1. The novel begins with Livia’s being summoned to court. How does this event --- and centering the beginning on her perspective --- set up the rest of the novel?

2. Early on, James tells Livia, “I do admire how your devotion increases with the fashion.” What does this say about her character?

3. While discussing how Foulmire might have changed, Alinor tells Alys, “Someone will have made up stories about if we were never real at all.” What does this novel say about the power of stories?

4. Alinor tells Matthew that Livia and James Avery are “poor in heart.” How do Alinor’s and Alys’ relationships with James and Livia, respectively, affect the novel? Do you find redemption for these characters by the end?

5. Rowan tells Ned, “You saved my life --- it is yours.” At various points in the story, they each feel an enormous debt to the other. How does this drive the story? Do you think that Ned and Rowan are obligated to repay this debt? Why do you think Rowan uses Ned’s name in Barbados?

6. What does the discovery of the garden in Barbados mean to Rowan? How does she take back her own agency and build community in this novel?

7. Alinor tells James, “You can’t bring back time by wishing.” What do you think these characters might change about their lives if given the opportunity to go back?

8. What do you make of the story the charcoal burner tells Gabrielle and Mia about the mermaid and the priest? Does this fairy tale tell a truth about the real events? What does it mean that both Alinor and James die on Midsummer Eve?

9. As Queen Mary Beatrice promises to shower Livia with a post, pension and jewels, Livia says, “I’ll try to be happy.” Consider the relationship between Livia and Mary Beatrice, especially given Livia’s relationship with Alys in the previous book. Do you think that Livia is purely mercenary, or does she have some true affection for the queen?

10. When Ned finds Rowan, she says of Johnnie (and Ned, too, by association), “But I don’t need his help. I’m free.” How does this theme of freedom run through the novel? What does freedom look like for each of these characters?

11. Alys says, “There is no profit in equality.” How does the book prove or disprove this theory? Do you agree with her?

12. What role does succession --- both royal and nonroyal --- play in this novel? What kind of inheritances, both monetary and spiritual, do the characters receive?

13. At the end of the novel, Livia returns, announcing that their home is called Fairmile. What does this renaming of the Priory signal?

14. Why do you think the author chose to title the book DAWNLANDS?

by Philippa Gregory

  • Publication Date: July 18, 2023
  • Genres: Fiction, Historical Fiction
  • Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Washington Square Press
  • ISBN-10: 1501187228
  • ISBN-13: 9781501187223