Her Own Legacy – Book Club

Discussion Questions

In a book club? Here are a few questions to fuel your group’s discussion of Her Own Legacy.

  1. By law, Joliette cannot inherit property or own a business and her signature is not accepted on contracts unless she is widowed. During the French Revolution a law passed in 1790, which made women, along with illegitimate children, equal inheritors of property. Did this solve Joliette’s problem or complicate things?
  2. Do you think Joliette should have obeyed her father and married the man the Comte chose?
  3. Had Joliette married the man the Comte chose, what do you think would have happened to Château de Verzat, the families who lived on the estate, and the Verzat legacy?
  4. Henri feared he could not fill his father’s noble shoes. Do you think Henri became the man he wanted to become? How are Henri and the Comte similar and different?
  5. The Comte explains red heels on his shoes means one has presented at the Court of Versailles. French fashion designers Christian Louboutin and Yves Saint Laurent went to court to battle for the trademark of red-soled shoes. Did you notice any other eighteenth century fashions that have been popular during modern times?
  6. A lettre de cachet was the King’s power to lock anyone in the Bastille, without trial. The Revolutionary government declared if émigrés did not return immediately, the state would confiscate their property and holdings, and, should they return later, they would be executed for treason. Joliette comments, “You know the irony of this? The new law is like a lettre de cachet.” How are the laws similar? Is the revolutionary law democratic?
  7. Were you surprised to learn the reason Comte de Verzat had not acknowledged Henri? Did the Comte do the wrong thing for the right reason? Have you ever faced a decision to do the wrong thing for the right reason?
  8. Henri thinks people do not take responsibility for the parts they play in their own misery, such as when people burn wheat fields and then complain there is no bread. Are there other examples of people contributing to their own demise in the book? Are there any parallels to this in today’s world?
  9. Henri’s neighbor, Madame Françoise, is forced to join the march to Versailles. How would you feel if you were forced to protest something you did not believe in?
  10. Who was your favorite secondary character and why?
  11. What do you think Joliette and Henri will do when they arrive in America? What must Joliette do to create her own legacy?