Discussion guide

Questions for discussion

  • "My biography resembles one of those trick detective stories," Simon reflects, "in which, after all the other suspects have been eliminated, it is clear that the narrator himself is the culprit." Who or what is the cause of Simon Davey's downfall in Independence Square?
  • Who are the real villains of the novel – and who are its heroes?
  • "They don't really see you at all," Olesya says of the men in the story. How would you characterise the attitude of the male figures in the book to the women, including Jacqui and Cynthia?
  • How would you describe Simon's feelings for Olesya?
  • "Sometimes," Olesya says of Kovrin, "when his morals make a problem for him, when he needs to, he flicks his switch and they are gone." How bad a man is Kovrin? Does he have good qualities as well as reprehensible ones?
  • Compare and contrast the two cities in which the action of Independence Square unfolds. Do they have some things in common?
  • Throughout Independence Square, characters suspect they are being watched and overheard. In the world of the novel, who is really in charge?
  • "We were like sign to future, no?" Kovrin says of his country. "Like Yuri Gagarin." Do some of the political tactics that feature in the novel now seem familiar in the West, too?
  • "They blurred: the things that happened and the things that might have." Discuss the role of rumour and misinformation in the novel.
  • "A swift disillusioning plunge for the other idealists, down into a swamp of 'paid everything'." What hope is left at the end of Independence Square – for idealism or for the characters themselves?