BOOK CLUB GUIDE
"Prisoner of Memory" delves into the Russian community in Los Angeles, then spins a tale with roots that go back into the Cold War. How many different types of Russian immigrants does the author describe in this book? How are they alike and how do they differ. Give an example of how two of these groups clash in the book.
Hamilton has said that she is a longtime fan of John Le Carré and his Cold War novels and that one of the threads of Prisoner of Memory was inspired by a real-life Cold War spy scandal that erupted in Los Angeles in the mid-1980s involving a male FBI agent and a female KGB femme fatale. What are the motives of FBI agent Clavendish in "Prisoner of Memory" and where do his loyalties ultimately lie?
Denny Lukin is like so many young people in Los Angeles—a child of immigrants caught between two cultures. List some of the ways that Denny and his classmates, including Lyuba and Max, display this duality.
What role does the Russian Mafia play in "Prisoner of Memory?"
What did you think of Eve's purported cousin Mischa? Did you believe they were related or not and why and did your feelings about him evolve as the book progressed? Would you have allowed him to sleep on your back porch that first night?
How did Eve's cultural background affect her investigation of Denny Lukin's murder and color her actions?
There are many examples of black humor in this novel, some of which arise from cultural misunderstandings. Can you name a few?
Eve is a resourceful but flawed character who must track down some unpleasant and potentially dangerous people to find out who killed Denny Lukin. In real life, reporters often have to convince people to talk to them. One of Eve's least favorite tasks is interviewing the grieving parents of a child who has been killed. Yet she does it, and even calls herself a 'vulture' at one point. What tactics does Eve use to get people to talk to her? Does she stray into gray moral areas or get too involved with her sources to maintain objectivity? If so, please give an example. How far would you go in a similar situation?
Discuss the relationship between reporters and law enforcement in this book, especially the LAPD cops at the book's beginning and the FBI agents later on. How are the two careers (journalism and law enforcement) adversarial and how do they complement each other?
Los Angeles is a sprawling urban megalopolis, and yet Hamilton also includes descriptions of great natural beauty and wilderness hidden within the city. One such place is Griffith Park. What are some other scenes in the book that showcase the natural world?
What symbolism can be seen in the mountain lion?
What is the significance of the book's title? Is there more than one character in this book who is a "prisoner of memory?"
The letter about the butterflies that Eve's grandmother received from her husband in Stalinist Russia was inspired by a true story that Hamilton heard as a child from her own mother, a French immigrant of Russian extraction. What stories have been handed down in your own family that haunt or resonate deeply?