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The Red Queen PDF, ePub eBook Two hundred years after being plucked from obscurity to marry the Crown Prince of Korea, the Red Queen doesn’t want her extraordinary existence to be forgotten. Her long and privileged life behind the Korean palace walls was not all it seemed, and the Red Queen (or her ghost) is still desperate to retell her tale. Dr. Barbara Halliwell, with her own complicated past, seems Two hundred years after being plucked from obscurity to marry the Crown Prince of Korea, the Red Queen doesn’t want her extraordinary existence to be forgotten. Her long and privileged life behind the Korean palace walls was not all it seemed, and the Red Queen (or her ghost) is still desperate to retell her tale. Dr. Barbara Halliwell, with her own complicated past, seems the perfect envoy – having read the memoirs of the Crown Princess on the plane to Seoul, Barbara has become utterly engrossed in her story. But why has the Red Queen selected Barbara to keep her story alive, and what else does she want from her? As she explores the inner sanctums and the royal courts, Barbara Halliwell begins to feel a strong affinity for everything related to the princess and her mysterious life. After a brief, intense, and ill-fated love affair, she returns to London. Is she ensnared by the events of the past week, of the past two hundred years, or will she pick up her life where she left it? Set in eighteenth-century Korea and the present day, The Red Queen is a rich, playful, and atmospheric novel about love, about personal and public history, and what it means to be remembered. Beautifully told, ingeniously constructed, this novel reveals Margaret Drabble at her extraordinary best. From the Hardcover edition.

30 review for The Red Queen

  1. 5 out of 5

    Ahmad Sharabiani

    7. The Red Queen, Margaret Drabble The Red Queen is a 2004 novel by British novelist Margaret Drabble. The novel describes the trip of a British academic on a trip to Seoul to give a paper at a conference. At the beginning of the novel, the academic, Dr. Babs Halliwell, reads the memoir of a 19th-century Korean princess. Two hundred years after being plucked from obscurity to marry the Crown Prince of Korea, the Red Queen doesn’t want her extraordinary existence to be forgotten. Her long and privi 7. The Red Queen, Margaret Drabble The Red Queen is a 2004 novel by British novelist Margaret Drabble. The novel describes the trip of a British academic on a trip to Seoul to give a paper at a conference. At the beginning of the novel, the academic, Dr. Babs Halliwell, reads the memoir of a 19th-century Korean princess. Two hundred years after being plucked from obscurity to marry the Crown Prince of Korea, the Red Queen doesn’t want her extraordinary existence to be forgotten. Her long and privileged life behind the Korean palace walls was not all it seemed, and the Red Queen (or her ghost) is still desperate to retell her tale. تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز دهم ماه آوست سال 2018 میلادی عنوان: ملکه ی سرخ؛ نویسنده: مارگارت درابل؛ مترجم: سید سعید کلانی؛ مینا وکیلی نژاد؛ تهران، نشر هیرمند؛ 1396؛ در 415 ص؛ فروست: مجموعه شهرزاد، شابک: 9789644084607؛ موضوع: داستانهای نویسندگان انگلیسی - سده 20 م ملکه‌ ی سرخ؛ داستانى از شرق دور است. داستانى آشنا، از دربار کره جنوبى، و پیچیدگى‌هاى پردغدغه ی زیستن، در چنان فضاهایى، که با تکنیک ویژه ی نگارنده، به زیبایى بازگو شده است. آمیزه‌ اى از تاریخ، افسانه، و تکنیک‌هاى ادبى ست، که مى‌تواند براى خوانشگر، جذاب باشد. چرا که پیوند دهنده ی دو گوشه ی از هم دورِ جهانِ غرب و شرق است. نقل از پشت جلد کتاب ملکه‌ ی سرخ: «دکتر باربارا هالیول، در سفر به کره جنوبى، بسته ی غیرمنتظره‌ اى دریافت مى‌کند، که هیچ آدرس فرستنده‌ اى رویش وجود ندارد. آن بسته حاوى خاطرات یک ملکه‌ ى کره‌ اى است که قرن‌ها پیش مى‌زیسته. خاطراتى که او را به دلِ مگوترین اسرار درباره کره مى‌برند، و پرده از علت واقعى قتل شوهر ملکه، شاهزاده سادوى افسانه‌ اى، و جدایى ملکه از فرزندانش برمى‌دارند.»؛ پایان نقل از متن پشت جلد کتاب. هشدار اگر کتاب را خود میخواهید بخوانید ادامه ی این نگاره را لطفا نخوانید. خلاصه کتاب ملکه‌ ی سرخ: کتاب دو روایتِ موازى را دنبال مى‌کند. راوىِ یکى روح دردکشیده ی ملکه است، که قصد کرده تا پس از قرن‌ها، واقعیت را به گوش جهانیان برساند. او که همانند اغلب دختران هم دوره‌ ی خویش، در کودکى وارد دربار شده، و به واسطه ی شغل و منصب پدرش، به ازدواج شاهزاده «سادو» درآمده، هرگز تصور نمى‌کرده، زندگى‌ او چنین پرفراز و نشیب باشد. بخش نخست: روایتگرِ «کودکى و ازدواج زودهنگام ملکه در کودکى، تولد و مرگ نخستین پسرش، تولد پسر دوم، و دخترانش، وسواس جنون آمیز همسرش، شاهزاده سادو، به لباس، قتل فجیع (پینگا) معشوقه ى سادو، خودکشى نافرجام سادو، مرگ سادو در صندوق برنج، مرگ پادشاه پیر، بازدید رسمى ملکه از هواسئونگ در شصتمین سالگرد تولدش» است. از سویى دیگر رخدادهای قصر: توطئه‌ هاى قصر، و دسیسه‌هاى خانوادگى روایت مى‌شوند، تا خوانشگر را بیشتر با فضاى پر تنش قصر آشنا کنند. اما جذابترین بخشِ این داستان، نگاهِ همیشه ناظرِ روح ملکه است، که از وراى زمان به رخدادها مى‌نگرد، و دست نوشته‌ هایش را به وسیله رابطش به دستِ دکتر باربارا هالیول مى‌رساند. در هم تنیدگىِ داستانِ خوف‌انگیز شاهزاده سادو، با روایتِ این زمانىِ دکتر هالیول، حس پیچیدگى و رازآلودگى را به خوانشگر تلقین مى‌کند. از سوى دیگر، چرایىِ گزینش این فرد خاص، براى بازگویى حقایق از پس داستانِ زندگیش، پدیدار مى‌شود. او هم همچون ملکه، زندگى پر رنجى را از سر بگذرانده، همسرى دیوانه، فرزندى از دست رفته، و یک دنیا آرزو. روح ملکه بى‌قرار است، و مى‌خواهد بداند آیا فرد مناسبى را براى اینکار برگزیده؟ حقایق از چه راهى آشکار مى‌شوند؟ آیا مى‌تواند از پس این ماموریت خطیر برآید؟ ا. شربیانی

  2. 4 out of 5

    Preeta

    Oof. I read The Radiant Way a long time ago and liked it, but this was awful. Drabble thinly disguises herself as a *different* aging British academic (why, why bother with the disguise?!?) and then channels (not very successfully) an eighteenth-century Korean princess. I say "not very successfully" because really most of it is Drabble imposing her late twentieth-century values and preoccupations on this hapless historical figure. Time travel gone really bad. Stay away, stay away.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Alaina

    I think this is my first book ever from Margaret Drabble.. and it might by my last. I have no idea if that will be true or not but at this point.. well, The Red Queen was such a disappointment for me. Okay, so The Red Queen is about a Korean crown princess being forced to marry a mad man who is line to become the next king.. or the king. Either way, I didn't really care. Now her tale is somewhat entertaining and a smidge interesting.. but you'll get bored rather quickly. Just like I did. Or not i I think this is my first book ever from Margaret Drabble.. and it might by my last. I have no idea if that will be true or not but at this point.. well, The Red Queen was such a disappointment for me. Okay, so The Red Queen is about a Korean crown princess being forced to marry a mad man who is line to become the next king.. or the king. Either way, I didn't really care. Now her tale is somewhat entertaining and a smidge interesting.. but you'll get bored rather quickly. Just like I did. Or not if you're into the whole mindset of marriage back in the days. I'd rather sit through a lecture on all of the sciences wrapped together than reread this book ever again. AND I HATE SCIENCE SO GOD DAMN MUCH! Now around the half way point of this book.. you'll really start to hate yourself because you somehow convinced yourself to keep on reading. What if it gets better? It wont. What if I drink some wine and I'll start to like it? Drink 3 bottles and you'll end up hating it even more. Okay, maybe I'm being a bit harsh.. but I just hated everything from Barbara's POV. I wanted to stab the book repeatedly, burn it, or gift it to someone I really hate. Again, it could just be me.. but I wish I would've stayed away from this book.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Amerynth

    I'm surprised Margaret Drabble's "The Red Queen" is on the 2006 list of 1,001 Books to Read Before You Die... I really didn't find the book particularly interesting or unique. In fact, I really didn't enjoy the book much at all. Plot-wise, the first half the book is at least somewhat interesting. It tells the story of a Korean crown princess, forced into a marriage with a madman who is in line to become king. While her tale is interesting, I found it difficult to become really immersed in the sto I'm surprised Margaret Drabble's "The Red Queen" is on the 2006 list of 1,001 Books to Read Before You Die... I really didn't find the book particularly interesting or unique. In fact, I really didn't enjoy the book much at all. Plot-wise, the first half the book is at least somewhat interesting. It tells the story of a Korean crown princess, forced into a marriage with a madman who is in line to become king. While her tale is interesting, I found it difficult to become really immersed in the story -- It felt much more like a lecture or a history lesson. I really detested the second half of the book, which fairly jarringly turns to third-person narration as (what I assume is the Red Queen) tells the story of a researcher named Barbara Halliwell, who reads the Red Queen's memoirs while on a trip to Korea. I disliked the narration (and endless paragraphs with questions) and the story itself, which was rather boring. Despite the parallels between the Red Queen and Halliwell, I didn't feel the two stories really melded together well. Usually, even if I don't enjoy a book on the 1,001... list, I can at least understand why it is on the list. That's not the case with this book.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Shrina

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Where do I start? The beginning part of the book was confusing. With the different names for the years and dates, not to mention the foreign names, it was very hard to keep a handle on the book. And I happen to be Korean! I speak, read and write it as well. The story of the prince Sado, however, is one very well known in Korea. My parents used to repeat it with a sense of gleeful macabre about how even a prince can meet his doom if the child does not obey their parents. So, I was probably prejud Where do I start? The beginning part of the book was confusing. With the different names for the years and dates, not to mention the foreign names, it was very hard to keep a handle on the book. And I happen to be Korean! I speak, read and write it as well. The story of the prince Sado, however, is one very well known in Korea. My parents used to repeat it with a sense of gleeful macabre about how even a prince can meet his doom if the child does not obey their parents. So, I was probably prejudiced against the book to begin with. The first half of the book, I found myself screaming, "get to it already!" And when she finally got to the climax of the story, she portrays the Crown Princess as a wife who does nothing to save her husband. Not even a visit and a kind word through the damned rice chest! As a Korean woman, I would like to note that not all Korean women are such wimps. There have been many good Korean woman who have thrown their own bodies over the ones of their loved ones, begging for mercy on their behalf. Love, even obligatory one, brings out the best kind of courage, and Korean women have not been immune to love and courage. The second part of the book was just a self-glorified verbal vomit (as my English Lit teacher used to say). I don't see how Babs' story relates to the Crown Princess at all. The author is trying to compare a royal princess (who is a wimp, by the way) to a convention hussy (Babs Halliwell). Perhaps because they both failed to help their mentally ill husbands? That would be the only connection between the two. Lastly, the passive and flowery prose is jumpy, forced and uncomfortable to read. I feel like this "author" exploited the tragic story of the Prince Sado to justify her own self-absorbed verbal vomit. Who ever heard of an author inserting herself into the novel like she did?

  6. 5 out of 5

    drea

    I picked up my copy of THE RED QUEEN several years ago per the suggestion of Peter Boxall's list of 1001 Books to Read Before You Die, helpfully spreadsheeted by the Internet. Unfortunately, somewhere between 2003 an 2010, he changed his mind (!) and THE RED QUEEN got the boot to make way for new selections. This still makes me really angry if I think about it too hard, as I was doing a few days ago when I saw it on my shelf and decided to read it anyway, read it proudly and indignantly! Ha ha! I picked up my copy of THE RED QUEEN several years ago per the suggestion of Peter Boxall's list of 1001 Books to Read Before You Die, helpfully spreadsheeted by the Internet. Unfortunately, somewhere between 2003 an 2010, he changed his mind (!) and THE RED QUEEN got the boot to make way for new selections. This still makes me really angry if I think about it too hard, as I was doing a few days ago when I saw it on my shelf and decided to read it anyway, read it proudly and indignantly! Ha ha! Ha ha ha ha! I did read it, and pretty quickly. I see what other reviewers were saying when they wrote that feels a little like two novellas put side to side. One is a first-person account of an 18th-century Korean Crown Princess, who tells about court intrigue and her marriage to Prince Sado, who went spectacularly crazy in the way only royalty can and was then executed in a terrible way by his own father. I really enjoyed this section, I think in large part because of my own ignorance about Korean history, despite having actually taken a course in Korean history Back in the Day that Was Also Known as College. So ... thanks, ignorance! The princess argues her case and asks for forgiveness for her role in what would come to be known as the Imo Incident, and she starts off so gracefully and quietly that I wasn’t quite expecting the magnitude of the prince’s crazy or his fate. I was sort of expecting “Oh my husband, he talks to the castle cats and asks them about the weather.” Not, “Oh, my husband, sometimes he interrupts my embroidery by walking in with a eunuch’s head on a spike, but we do our best to keep it hush hush.” Yikes! But it does make for riveting reading. The narrative is a little disjointed, and I wish there would have been a little bit more of an effort to form it into scenes, but I suppose it is difficult being a ghost AND thinking about ease of storytelling, so it is okay. But after the Princess finishes her tale, we jump forward 200 years and change to follow academic Babs “Boring” Halliday as she lands in Korea for a conference on ... something. Medical ethics, maybe. A strange benefactor has sent her an old translation of the Crown Princess’s memoirs, and she reads them on the plane and is enraptured, because hey! She also has a crazy husband and likes the color red. Small world. When she lands in Korea, Babs meets a doctor who is well-versed in Korean history, and she ends up going to visit the palace and the princess’s burial place while also having an impressively un-scintillating affair with a fellow respected academic who (view spoiler)[ actually dies of the boredom and/or a heart-attack (hide spoiler)] . She returns to Britain haunted by the Princess’s story and then conveniently meets an author who is conveniently Margaret Drabble, and who then (view spoiler)[ writes this novel. (hide spoiler)] On one hand, I don't think I've ever read a novel about how the author got the idea for the novel, so--points for meta and originality, I suppose. But it did give me the odd feeling that I hadn’t quite read the real novel yet, like maybe I should flip the book over and start again. Hrm. Also, don’t know if the conceit of the princess’s ghost demanding her story be told from the afterworld really works, although in reality she wrote her memoirs like four times so maybe she is due. There are THEMES, of course, like histories demanding to be heard and guilt and grief, and okay, I see them. But ultimately, while I very much enjoyed learning about the Prince Sado debacle and the time period, I don’t know if we really need a whole novel about how this novel came to be. I’m intrigued enough to read more Drabble, but I think I’ll remember this one a good history lesson, but mostly an interesting experiment that didn’t quite make it. I do, however, love it for introducing me to the word “foredoomed.” Worth it’s own star.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Deborah Ideiosepius

    Life is too short to read bad books. This may not be a 'bad' book, however for me it is bewildering, silly and time wasting. I was looking forward to the historical content but any paragraph of historical style is immediately followed by 21st century knowledge and musings, this makes the reading experience extraordinary disjointed and, at best, uncomfortable. A Korean princess from the 1700's discoursing knowledgeably about anorexia and post natal depression? Are you kidding me? And what is with t Life is too short to read bad books. This may not be a 'bad' book, however for me it is bewildering, silly and time wasting. I was looking forward to the historical content but any paragraph of historical style is immediately followed by 21st century knowledge and musings, this makes the reading experience extraordinary disjointed and, at best, uncomfortable. A Korean princess from the 1700's discoursing knowledgeably about anorexia and post natal depression? Are you kidding me? And what is with this hypothetical princess, dead for centuries, comparing her society to ours? A teaser about the fashions of the day, followed by a discourse on Confucius and Oedipus then a statement that "of course we knew nothing about the ancient Greeks..." Whatever this narrative is trying to do, I do not think it succeeds and I am very disappointed that the book I bought expecting to read about eighteenth century Korea is a complete fail. Anyone want a free book?

  8. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth Kennedy

    By happy coincidence I started reading this book just as I finished reading Possession by AS Byatt. I decided to do a little research into Margaret Drabble, with whom I was unfamiliar, and discovered that she and Byatt are sisters. With that knowledge, I couldn't help but compare the two novels and the authors' styles. Strangely enough (or maybe not, considering the possible ties and implications of sisterhood), The Red Queen also deals with the theme of possession. The first half of the novel t By happy coincidence I started reading this book just as I finished reading Possession by AS Byatt. I decided to do a little research into Margaret Drabble, with whom I was unfamiliar, and discovered that she and Byatt are sisters. With that knowledge, I couldn't help but compare the two novels and the authors' styles. Strangely enough (or maybe not, considering the possible ties and implications of sisterhood), The Red Queen also deals with the theme of possession. The first half of the novel tells the story of the Crown Princess of Korea and her husband, Prince Sado. The Crown Prince and Princess are actual historical figures; Drabble bases this part of the novel on the Crown Princess’ memoirs (there are several translations of the memoirs in existence). Drabble tweaks the story a bit by having this section of the novel written as if the Princess is telling a version of her memoirs from the afterlife and in our present day. The Princess lived during the 18th century. The second part of the novel deals with Babs Halliwell, an English academic of the present who is anonymously given a copy of the memoir and reads it while traveling to Korea for a conference. She is enthralled by the story told in the memoirs (and haunted, or even possessed by the ghost of the princess). Her possession of and by the memoirs goes on to change her life. The first (memoir-based) section of the novel is a fascinating look at court life in 18th century Korea. It is also a tragic family drama. The relationship between Prince Sado and his father is truly awful. The events of the memoir live up to the saying that truth is stranger (and more terrible) than fiction. I think Drabble succeeded in tying the two sections of the book together. I also think she developed her themes of human universality, the interplay of memoir and history, and the idea of possession quite well. However, I think AS Byatt explored related themes even more successfully. I also prefer Byatt’s richer, more poetic writing style. Drabble writes in a more straightforward manner which appealed to me less. I glanced through previous reviews and noticed I liked this book better than most. I think I may have enjoyed it more because I read it just after reading Possession. I think reading the two at about the same time helped me get more out of The Red Queen.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Benjamin

    I found this book compelling on two fronts: I was interested in the time and place (Korea, mid 1700s) and I was interested in the author's story-telling. The first half of the novel is told in first person through the eyes of the title character, the ghost of a noble-born Korean woman who married the crown prince of her kingdom while she was alive. While telling her story, she 'haunts' a present day woman who appears to be the thinly disguised author. To what end the ghost haunts is not clearly I found this book compelling on two fronts: I was interested in the time and place (Korea, mid 1700s) and I was interested in the author's story-telling. The first half of the novel is told in first person through the eyes of the title character, the ghost of a noble-born Korean woman who married the crown prince of her kingdom while she was alive. While telling her story, she 'haunts' a present day woman who appears to be the thinly disguised author. To what end the ghost haunts is not clearly revealed. The purported reason seems to be 'telling her story.' The ghost's story is compelling, but why do it this way? The second half of the novel takes an omniscient POV as it follows around the 'haunted' woman. During this part of the novel, the author, Margaret Drabble, does two things I would think was beyond a professional and successful writer: She sometimes has entire paragraphs in an interrogatory mode as her character analyzes her situation. All these questions are probably designed to raise the readers' tension, but for me it struck a histrionic note, like some teenage girls do when seeking to dramatize their lives. The second thing the author does is insert herself into the novel as a character. In case you miss it, she refers to herself as a writer and uses her own name for the character, probably attempting to lend verisimilitude to the novel. I have to say I found the novel nonetheless compelling. The story of the Red Queen is worthy, the story-telling brave. I may read more about the historical character, but I don't think I want to read more Drabble.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Steven

    I struggled to determine a rating for this book. There were some very good parts of the book, but I was disappointed in other parts. The first part of the book that retold the story from the 18th Century was intriguing and well laid out. However, I struggled with the second half of the book. Maybe I don't fully understand the ties between the two halves, but I see the second half as simply an affair between two people brought closer together after being influenced by the original story. I also d I struggled to determine a rating for this book. There were some very good parts of the book, but I was disappointed in other parts. The first part of the book that retold the story from the 18th Century was intriguing and well laid out. However, I struggled with the second half of the book. Maybe I don't fully understand the ties between the two halves, but I see the second half as simply an affair between two people brought closer together after being influenced by the original story. I also did not get closure at the end of the book. Again, maybe is because I am not looking at the ending through the right lens. I felt that the writing was very simple throughout the book, especially the second half. The thoughts of the main character do not seem to me like the thoughts of a highly intelligent person. They seem to be very shallow at most times. I did enjoy learning about the Historical part of the story and also enjoyed reading a book that was set in a location that I have visited. See my thoughts on the setting, along with a few pictures, in my blog post about Changgyeonggung. Steven

  11. 5 out of 5

    Brenna

    While I was entertained by this book, I was also frustrated by it. I didn't really get the connections among the first two parts of the book or why they were there. I think it commented well on the way that certain characters, historical or fictional, can seem to reach through the pages of their memoirs or stories and grab hold of you, but this book seemed to be trying to do something more, but I'm not quite sure what. I don't think it was super successful in that regard. There seemed to be tang While I was entertained by this book, I was also frustrated by it. I didn't really get the connections among the first two parts of the book or why they were there. I think it commented well on the way that certain characters, historical or fictional, can seem to reach through the pages of their memoirs or stories and grab hold of you, but this book seemed to be trying to do something more, but I'm not quite sure what. I don't think it was super successful in that regard. There seemed to be tangents and subplots that didn't have much of a purpose, as entertaining as they were to read. For me, all the parts didn't quite meld into a cohesive whole.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. The Red Queen is really two separate books. The first tells the story of a doomed prince and his child bride. I thought, at first, that the memoirs were transposed very literately by the author. I thought the writing style was disjointed and reflected a slightly crazy and paranoid personality. The writing flitted and swayed like a piece of tissue paper on the wind. The historical, Korean story of the Red Queen and the rice chest, finally got told through the darting paragraphs. The incident at t The Red Queen is really two separate books. The first tells the story of a doomed prince and his child bride. I thought, at first, that the memoirs were transposed very literately by the author. I thought the writing style was disjointed and reflected a slightly crazy and paranoid personality. The writing flitted and swayed like a piece of tissue paper on the wind. The historical, Korean story of the Red Queen and the rice chest, finally got told through the darting paragraphs. The incident at the palace gate is amazing and disturbing. I liked this story, when I though it was a view into the mind of a tormented woman. In the second story, I realized that it was Margaret Drabble's writing style that was skittish, not the Crown Princess's. I worked hard after page 154 to get into the story. I nearly quit the book. Finally, as Babs met van Jost, I committed to finishing the book. The second story was not my favorite. I have seen many, many "convention romances" in my life and career and I have always thought that were cheap and rude. I was disappointed in Babs (as I have been with many other convention hussies) and in Dr. van Jost. (as I have been with many married male co-workers at conventions) At least I can say, it was a story based in reality. I was happy that the little girl was adopted, though the union of the mistress and widow seemed unlikely. In the end it was a good story and I was glad to get a glimpse into Korean history.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Yelena Malcolm

    I'm not a steel-toed boot wearing agro-feminist by any stretch of the imagination, but the ladies in this book protested way too much. A woman of intellect, culture and wit spends little time talking about how intelligent, cultured, and witty she is - these things should be self-evident. That the heroines of this novel constantly took such great pains to assure me of their merits rendered them meritless in my mind. Coupled with their actions which seemed to embody none of the characteristics the I'm not a steel-toed boot wearing agro-feminist by any stretch of the imagination, but the ladies in this book protested way too much. A woman of intellect, culture and wit spends little time talking about how intelligent, cultured, and witty she is - these things should be self-evident. That the heroines of this novel constantly took such great pains to assure me of their merits rendered them meritless in my mind. Coupled with their actions which seemed to embody none of the characteristics they prized and claimed as their own and the book simply devolved into one giant mess of hypocrisy. The writing was laughably poor - the addition of some impressive-looking polysyllabic words does not make a work of genius, especially coupled with the kinds of grammatical errors one hardly expects from the British. When trying to understand what was so bad about this book, I was forced to contrast it with truly good books. The author attempts to inject some measure of spirituality and magic into her narrative, but beats you over the head with its inclusion, in stark contrast to the masters of magical realism - it's only seamless and powerful if you don't notice it overmuch.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Johanne

    Hmmm the first half was ok, the historical story of a Korean Queen who died some 200 years ago. The plotting was a bit contrived but the story was interesting and there was a good unreliable narrator theme building. Then the second half.... Oh dear - now I know why my Oxfam bookshop copy seemed oddly well thumbed at the beginning and not from the middle onwards. A weird detached third person view (possibly meant to be the red queen but not always clear)and a character who was just dull, life is Hmmm the first half was ok, the historical story of a Korean Queen who died some 200 years ago. The plotting was a bit contrived but the story was interesting and there was a good unreliable narrator theme building. Then the second half.... Oh dear - now I know why my Oxfam bookshop copy seemed oddly well thumbed at the beginning and not from the middle onwards. A weird detached third person view (possibly meant to be the red queen but not always clear)and a character who was just dull, life is too short for this dribble. Sadly I rather suspect Ms Drabble's sister would have done a better job of this book of two halves.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Chena

    This was the worst book I've ever read. I only made it through Part 1, which was a struggle. But after getting 6 pages into Part 2, I couldn't handle it anymore. Seriously, WTF. How was this book published? The life about the Crown Princess Hyegyong is very interesting. So if you want to learn about that, I would read her translated memoirs instead.

  16. 5 out of 5

    C.

    Really did NOT like this book. Actually, could barely wait until it was over. Never been a huge fan of historical fiction - I just don't really like it. This particular (and hardly stunning) example of the genre is set in Korea, about 200 years ago. It's about the crown princess, Lady Hong. 200 years after her death, she looks back on her life as a ghost, a ghost who has used the past 200 years of death to study the ways of the modern world and to attempt to... I never quite worked out what it w Really did NOT like this book. Actually, could barely wait until it was over. Never been a huge fan of historical fiction - I just don't really like it. This particular (and hardly stunning) example of the genre is set in Korea, about 200 years ago. It's about the crown princess, Lady Hong. 200 years after her death, she looks back on her life as a ghost, a ghost who has used the past 200 years of death to study the ways of the modern world and to attempt to... I never quite worked out what it was she was trying to do. Manipulate some poor innocent into taking up her story and telling it to the world? Something like that. So that was the first half of the novel. The second half is about the life of the person Lady Hong chooses to be her 'emissary', Babs Halliwell. She's a British academic who reads the memoirs of Lady Hong on the plane to a conference in South Korea. Fascinated by the story (but really, if the first half of this book is what Babs read, what's so fascinating about it?) she somehow manages to fulfil her role as the 'emissary' by adopting a Chinese baby. On the way she meets and falls briefly in love with the famous Dutch sociologist Jan van Jost. Far-fetched, random and pointless in the extreme. OK, firstly the narrative point of view was totally bizarre and added nothing to the story. I mean, a ghost? 200 years in the future? Why would you do it? I think it might have been partially that which distanced me from the characters. Sure, she had a pretty awful life - having your husband starving to death in a rice chest over the course of twelve days is a little uncool - but I couldn't identify with it. Good historical fiction is good because it puts you there. You feel like you're living it. Putting the narrator at such a far remove spoiled this for me, I think. I couldn't and can't feel any sympathy for the characters, simply because it was so unsympathetically written. I had to physically stop reading the book and think about it before I realised that I was actually reading about something that should be quite tragic. Maybe I should be more tolerant, more accepting. I suppose it is a change from your average common-or-garden historical fiction, which I don't like much anyway. But it just doesn't work. The second half of the book was mildly more entertaining, but this IS NOT SAYING MUCH because it was just trashy. Trashy romance, trashy setting, trashy plot and trashy characters do not make for a satisfied reviewer. Seriously, it was literally like the Da Vinci Code or some crappy thriller, except without the thrills. Reading back over this, I actually think I'm being a little harsh. While I was reading it, I didn't dislike it particularly - it was entertaining enough, I suppose. I was wanting it to end faster than it did, but I couldn't say I loathed it. It's just that writing about it makes me realise just how bad it really was

  17. 5 out of 5

    Dawn

    Loved the epigraph: “ ‘The dead weep with joy when their books are reprited’ - TheRussian Ark, Alexander Sokurov, 2003 Multiple narrative voices: in the first half of the book, the 18th century Korean crown princess tells her sad story as a ghostly voice intent on getting narrators in later times interested enough in the story to correct the historical record and give her version; in the second half a ghostly voice, speaking in the present progressive tense, narrates the minute activities and de Loved the epigraph: “ ‘The dead weep with joy when their books are reprited’ - TheRussian Ark, Alexander Sokurov, 2003 Multiple narrative voices: in the first half of the book, the 18th century Korean crown princess tells her sad story as a ghostly voice intent on getting narrators in later times interested enough in the story to correct the historical record and give her version; in the second half a ghostly voice, speaking in the present progressive tense, narrates the minute activities and describes the setting, persons, and action of a 21st century woman scholar who chances on the printed history of crazed crown prince Sado in the airplane taking her to a conference in Korea, and becomes so obsessed she visits relevant sites while she is there and deepens the relationships she forms with a Korean and a Dutch scholar through discussing the book and pursuing the history. This narrator sees all but cannot explain all and speculates on significance and outcomes at times, or else reveals future knowledge by use of the future tense to display her awareness of circumstances not known to Dr.Barbara Halliwell at the time. The first half seemed unnecessarily repetitious and long, but Drabble probably intended to convey the Crown Princess’ obsession with the grave complexity of her role in protecting and covering for her violent, psychotic, murderous husband so that their son would inherit the throne. The second half gave intimate, personal details of Babs Hallliwell’s movements and thoughts during her intense week in Korea. It slowly reveals family issues and tragedies and hang-ups and ethical dilemmas that could be said to be eternal, that could be said to link the two women. Finally the story moves ahead quickly to different years in the future to bring a satisfying conclusion to the way Babs has gotten on with her personal and professional life, connected to the Korean sojourn. The Dutch scholar who died in her arms in Korea becomes at times a ghostly witness to the path that united his somewhat estranged wife, the Chinese baby he hadn’t quite managed to adopt for his wife before his death, and Babs as a geographical separated but successful post-modern family!

  18. 5 out of 5

    Donna Jo Atwood

    A story within a story. The historical part of the story is about a Korean princess who lived as a contemporary of Catherine the Great, Marie Antoinette, and George Washington. This part of the book is based on her diaries. She was married to the Crown Prince who was quite literally insane, making her life and the lives of those around them very unstable. Eventually he was executed, but her life at court continued to be tense and full of strife. The other part of the story is of a modern English A story within a story. The historical part of the story is about a Korean princess who lived as a contemporary of Catherine the Great, Marie Antoinette, and George Washington. This part of the book is based on her diaries. She was married to the Crown Prince who was quite literally insane, making her life and the lives of those around them very unstable. Eventually he was executed, but her life at court continued to be tense and full of strife. The other part of the story is of a modern English author who is traveling to Korea. She picks up a copy of Princess Hong's diary to read on the plane and becomes entranced by the story. Her meeting with Dr. Oo provides her with a guide to discover more about the Princess. In addition, she has an ill-fated love affair with another European. The ghost of Princess Hong hovers over the entire book. No, this is not a ghost story. This is Margaret Drabble--and for a change, I read this without wishing to throw it across the room in disgust, which happens with too many of her books. I found this one really delightful. My synopsis is inadequate to show what a good book I found this to be. Read for 2009 Spring Challenge 15.9 Red-hot Jello Salad and Red Velvet Cake

  19. 5 out of 5

    Zelda

    It was interesting for me to read the other readers' reviews of this book. The first part purports to be a memoir written by the ghost of an 18th century Korean princess, writing with the knowledge of later centuries to explain her life. So we read sentences like 'Matters are made more complicated by my posthumously acquired awareness of psychology and psychological terms' when explaining her husband's disturbed behaviour. Why Drabble chose to have her protagonist speak in this detached, sociolo It was interesting for me to read the other readers' reviews of this book. The first part purports to be a memoir written by the ghost of an 18th century Korean princess, writing with the knowledge of later centuries to explain her life. So we read sentences like 'Matters are made more complicated by my posthumously acquired awareness of psychology and psychological terms' when explaining her husband's disturbed behaviour. Why Drabble chose to have her protagonist speak in this detached, sociological way, I cannot understand. I feel that she cannot decide between writing a novel and writing a social science description of a certain period and culture with its concomitant mental health risks. By the end of a hundred pages I still hadn't engaged with the central character and was finding the writing style mannered and tedious. I feel that I'd learn more about court life in Korea from a non fiction history and more about psychology from a psychologist. When I read a novel I hope to enter imaginatively into a time, place or experience which can engage my interest and emotions and this book didn't offer any of that to me.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Maijabeep

    Why is the first half of this book so good and the second half so off-putting? What is the point of the two different eras? Exactly how racist is the symbolism of “The Chinese Baby?” Why did Margaret Drabble write herself into this book? I have a lot of questions. This is a very confused 3 stars.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Tracey

    An intriguing read that comes across as factual as well as fiction.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Vicki

    A very strange book, consisting of two separate parts which really didn't seem to go together at all. In the first part, the ghost of the Red Queen tells her story from the afterlife. The manner of the telling is disjointed, but the style fits the subject matter: the queen, or “Lady Hong”, is trying to tell us things that are painful for her to remember, and that she never fully understood anyway. This part of the book is based on Lady Hong’s actual diaries and makes for fascinating reading. The A very strange book, consisting of two separate parts which really didn't seem to go together at all. In the first part, the ghost of the Red Queen tells her story from the afterlife. The manner of the telling is disjointed, but the style fits the subject matter: the queen, or “Lady Hong”, is trying to tell us things that are painful for her to remember, and that she never fully understood anyway. This part of the book is based on Lady Hong’s actual diaries and makes for fascinating reading. The second part (approximately two-thirds) of the book I found bizarre and completely unsatisfying. It opens with a very sexual, but not remotely sexy, description of Dr Babs Halliwell lying naked on her bed the night before she flies to Korea for a conference. One of the items she has packed to read on the flight is a copy of Lady Hong's diary (in English translation), which she has inexplicably received, supposedly via Amazon, though she cannot discover who sent it to her. As she reads the book on the flight, we see the ghost of Lady Hong watching over her “chosen messenger”, practically forcing her to read it. Yet as the book goes on, this element is lost. Dr Halliwell strikes up a friendship with a Korean delegate who takes her to see the various palaces, etc, associated with Lady Hong, but her attention is divided as she begins a sordid three-night affair with the conference's star speaker (which is, apparently, not sordid because it lasts three nights, not just one or two!). Events in the aftermath of the conference are thoroughly peculiar and completely irrelevant to the story of Lady Hong. The book might have worked had the story kept its focus on Babs's exploration of Korea, and had she continued to research Lady Hong after her return. The affair with the Dutchman (who dies on the third night) and her subsequent adoption of a Chinese orphan jointly with his widow, seems an unnecessary, pointless and downright unbelievable complication (“Hi, I was sleeping with your husband when he died. Let’s adopt a baby together.” Eh?). I found Babs to be an thoroughly unlikable character and a very poor choice of messenger. Lady Hong presumably chose her because she was an educated woman who, like herself, had lost a child in infancy and whose husband was mentally ill, but the emotional bond that this should have formed between them was entirely missing. On her return to England, she seems to forget Lady Hong for years, until one day she has a chance encounter with...yes, Margaret Drabble. Ms Drabble had some very interesting material on her hands with the diary of Lady Hong. It's a great pity that she didn't just stick to that material, instead of inventing a nonsensical tale about how she came by it.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Lily

    (Published in 2004 according to Wikipedia) I enjoyed this book very much. It is the first book that I have read in some time solely for my own pleasure, i.e., not because I was discussing it somewhere with some group or another. But, its charm was far more than that. As I read, it seemed almost shallow compared with some of the classics I have been reading. Yet, when I flipped back through it, I realized even more clearly many foreshadowings and intertwined allusions I had missed on first pass. (Published in 2004 according to Wikipedia) I enjoyed this book very much. It is the first book that I have read in some time solely for my own pleasure, i.e., not because I was discussing it somewhere with some group or another. But, its charm was far more than that. As I read, it seemed almost shallow compared with some of the classics I have been reading. Yet, when I flipped back through it, I realized even more clearly many foreshadowings and intertwined allusions I had missed on first pass. I hope I shall someday reread it, which is rather an ultimate compliment in my lexicon. This is a dual story centering on a long ago Korean queen and a very modern professional woman. Eventually the contrasts and the parallels worked -- even if both stories stretched the imagination and played with excursions between the spirit worlds and modern realism -- while I lean towards the concrete, the interplay worked well in Drabble's hands. I picked it up from my local library shelf rather at random (much as the modern protagonist Babs encounters the memoirs of the historical Korean queen), since I had long wanted to read another novel by Dame Drabble, perhaps even better known as editor of two editions of The Oxford Companion to English Literature. (It was in 1998 that I read The Radiant Way(1987); I think Seven Sisters (2002) may be partially opened but largely unread somewhere on my shelves. I am enjoying picking at A Writer's Britain Second Edition. A collection of her short stories (A Day in the Life of a Smiling Woman: Complete Short Stories) is due to be available May 18, 2011.) For a selected list of her books, see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Margaret... or (a more complete list) http://www.redmood.com/drabble/

  24. 5 out of 5

    Lyd's Archive (7/'15 to 6/'18)

    Even wise children play strange games. It is when adults play these games that we should fear them. The Basics This was a book I thought I would like, with court intrigue, wisdom, and a distinctive voice, but the style of narrative did not work for me. Trope Check *Speaking from beyond the grave *Modern person discovers historical memoir/diary, stuff happens *court intrigue and backstabbing Full Review This book had a lot of things going for it. From the summary, Lady Hyegyong reminded me of Cather Even wise children play strange games. It is when adults play these games that we should fear them. The Basics This was a book I thought I would like, with court intrigue, wisdom, and a distinctive voice, but the style of narrative did not work for me. Trope Check *Speaking from beyond the grave *Modern person discovers historical memoir/diary, stuff happens *court intrigue and backstabbing Full Review This book had a lot of things going for it. From the summary, Lady Hyegyong reminded me of Catherine the Great or Pari Khan Khanoom and I was thus hoping I'd get another Equal of the Sun or Empress of the Night. Sadly, the author didn't really dig into the story as much as Eva Stachniak or Anita Amirrezvani did, perhaps to make room for her modern narrative but Russian Winter did that quite well. I also wasn't a huge fan of her speaking from beyond the grave but I understand how Drabble uses that to make a point. However, one thing I still don't get is how wordy the writing is. The retainer of the royal household who took this bold initiative risked execution, as did the illicit brewers. He gambled in the king's connivance, and won. Looking back, in my old age, this tragic farce seemed to me to characterize the inadequacies of our despotic yet bureaucratic regime. After many years of watching the whims and vagaries and weaknesses of monarchs, I began to yearn for a more consistent, more enlightened, less petty system of government. But nevertheless, the theme of this book is interesting still, and all too rare. Evil, in my view, is a word that has been much abused. The north of our country still attempts to lead a hermit life. It now is labelled 'evil.' It is part of the 'axis of evil', whatever that may be. Evil is not a word, in my advanced age, I feel much need. Overall, I could have enjoyed this book, but the style of it and the way the narrative centered around Hyegyong and Hyegyong only made me a bit bored, so I did not finish this.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Julia Park

    If I could rate zero stars I would - what a completely atrocious piece of bad fiction! I am a huge fan of historical fiction, and even historical nonfiction. Moreover, I'm ethnically Korean, and no matter how banal the book or poor the writer, I tend to read books based on Korean characters, history, and/or experience in one sitting, practically staying up the whole night. Not so for this book. Margaret Drabble installs a strange and insufferable voice in a queen from Korean history with the idea t If I could rate zero stars I would - what a completely atrocious piece of bad fiction! I am a huge fan of historical fiction, and even historical nonfiction. Moreover, I'm ethnically Korean, and no matter how banal the book or poor the writer, I tend to read books based on Korean characters, history, and/or experience in one sitting, practically staying up the whole night. Not so for this book. Margaret Drabble installs a strange and insufferable voice in a queen from Korean history with the idea that her ghost has been drifting the earth for centuries. She uses this odd plot as an excuse to name-drop theories and other literary allusions INCESSANTLY. I say name-drop because all of these references are unnecessary and placed without discretion or sophistication. If Drabble truly wanted to make known these connections between the story of the queen and other references throughout history, she should have done it with symbolism and imagery, not paragraphs and paragraphs of internal monologue. That is primarily the reason this book reads as an unintelligent attempt at writing in the voice of a historical figure, for me. An absolute failure. I can't believe I paid $15 Canadian dollars for this in a used bookstore. Now I know why it was there. All we need to know here is that one day, a woman came across an intriguing historical figure, conducted a lot of research about said figure, and decided to put all her notes and thoughts - barely edited - into novel form and passed it off as a story that people should buy and enjoy. She picked up a lot of knowledge during her self-indulgent research. Not a pinch of understanding. Don't buy it, don't read it. You'll regret it. ESPECIALLY if you value Korean history, because this could have been handled so much better and you'll be tearing out your hair at the injustice of it all.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Venetia Green

    I have finished it - I am rather startled I did finish it - but I still do not know what to make of it. I chose to read this book because it was historical fiction, a setting about which I know nothing but intrigues me, and because I've always intended to read a book by Margaret Drabble. My conclusion is that Drabble writes far better contemporary than historical fiction. For this is a book in two distinct parts, the first in the eighteenth century from the POV of the 'Red Queen' (who incidentally I have finished it - I am rather startled I did finish it - but I still do not know what to make of it. I chose to read this book because it was historical fiction, a setting about which I know nothing but intrigues me, and because I've always intended to read a book by Margaret Drabble. My conclusion is that Drabble writes far better contemporary than historical fiction. For this is a book in two distinct parts, the first in the eighteenth century from the POV of the 'Red Queen' (who incidentally never becomes a queen - why not call the book The Red Princess?), and the second in the present, from the POV of a woman academic. Even though the subject matter of the first half was compelling, I found Drabble's narration of it unsatisfactory. Did the narrator's tendency to hop backward and forward in time reflect the writing style of the real princess? It seems the only possible excuse. Then there were inconsistencies - was the mad Prince terrified of jade or not? The second half of the book was far more pedestrian in subject matter, yet I found Drabble's vivid writing quite gripping. The difference then between the first and the second half of the novel was in this degree of vividness-in-writing. I don't feel that Drabble truly got under the skin of the Crown Princess - but she relayed the thoughts and actions of her second narrator, Babs, wonderfully well.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Christine

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I enjoyed the first half of the book (actually the first 159 pages). I found the story of the Crown Princess being told by her own ghost to be interesting, and I liked the story of the ghost being more educated in death than her physical self was in life. I haven't seen that in a ghost story before. The first half also made me want to read the actual memoirs. However, I hated the second half of the book. In general, I do not like it when authors introduce themselves into their own work. I felt n I enjoyed the first half of the book (actually the first 159 pages). I found the story of the Crown Princess being told by her own ghost to be interesting, and I liked the story of the ghost being more educated in death than her physical self was in life. I haven't seen that in a ghost story before. The first half also made me want to read the actual memoirs. However, I hated the second half of the book. In general, I do not like it when authors introduce themselves into their own work. I felt no connection to Babs and for some reason wanted to either slap her or kick her out of the book. The book would have worked better as a novella for it seems the sole purpose of the novel is so that Drabble can share her interst in the Crown Princess with the reader. This is clear in the first part where it works, but in the second part it seems to fall away, and the book becomes self indulgent.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Syrdarya

    I'm only on page 33 and I'm sorry to say that this book is awful. I'm really struggling to get through it, and the only reason I'm continuing is because my library doesn't have the actual memoirs of Lady Hyegyong available. The narration style - of the dead princess telling her tale and reflecting back on her life while comparing it to the world after her death - does not work for me. I fear, after reading the reviews of other readers, that the book will only get worse. ... Page 50. "These are th I'm only on page 33 and I'm sorry to say that this book is awful. I'm really struggling to get through it, and the only reason I'm continuing is because my library doesn't have the actual memoirs of Lady Hyegyong available. The narration style - of the dead princess telling her tale and reflecting back on her life while comparing it to the world after her death - does not work for me. I fear, after reading the reviews of other readers, that the book will only get worse. ... Page 50. "These are the games of all children of all ages of all the peoples of the earth." Okay, I can't take it anymore, and I'm quitting the book. At this point I can't tell what the real princess's thoughts were and what are the opinions the author gave her, and my feeling is that if the author obliterates the voice of the person they're writing about, the book is useless. It really kills me to quit reading a book, no matter how bad I think it is.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Downward

    Here's a nonspooky ghost story, written impeccably but at the same time kind of boring. it's a bisected tale, the first half dedicated to the 18th century crown princess of korea, and the second half dedicated to an academic woman who becomes obsessed with the crown princesses memoirs. the whole thing is narrated by the ghost of the crown princess, which is a neat teick that allows her to tell her own story through a modern perspective, since she has the benefit of centuries of academic study of Here's a nonspooky ghost story, written impeccably but at the same time kind of boring. it's a bisected tale, the first half dedicated to the 18th century crown princess of korea, and the second half dedicated to an academic woman who becomes obsessed with the crown princesses memoirs. the whole thing is narrated by the ghost of the crown princess, which is a neat teick that allows her to tell her own story through a modern perspective, since she has the benefit of centuries of academic study of her own life as a ghost. But the ghost really just serves as a literalization of a metaphor for inspiration, and how a certain topic can stick with you, and, oh gosh, even HAUNT you. If that sounds like a good idea, then have at her. If it sounds like not enough to prop up a text, there's also a sort of moving romance and a sad story about a dead kid that parallels between the two narratives. Okay, but not essential.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Lorraine Coleman

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. This book is well written and the premise is very interesting. However, the construct of the book constantly takes the reader away from the flow of the story. It is an interesting idea, to have a 200 year old ghost to tell not only her story but the story of the modern day women in the second half of the book, but she keeps too much of an emotional distance in much of the story and also interrupts the reader with too many modern concepts. It was jarring and took me out of the story. In the secon This book is well written and the premise is very interesting. However, the construct of the book constantly takes the reader away from the flow of the story. It is an interesting idea, to have a 200 year old ghost to tell not only her story but the story of the modern day women in the second half of the book, but she keeps too much of an emotional distance in much of the story and also interrupts the reader with too many modern concepts. It was jarring and took me out of the story. In the second half of the book, the ghost is too emotionally removed from the protagonist. As I said, an interesting idea for the construction of a story and at times very interesting, but I couldn't love the characters.

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