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The Red Queen (2004)

by Margaret Drabble

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9074220,226 (3.14)183
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 Babs Halliwell, with her own complicated past, seems the perfect envoy - having read the memoirs of the Crown Princess on the plane to Seoul, Babs has become utterly engrossed in her story. But why has the Red Queen picked Babs to keep her story alive, and what else does she want from her? Set in 18th-century Korea and the present day, The Red Queenis a rich, playful and atmospheric novel about love, about personal and public history, and what it means to be remembered.… (more)
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» See also 183 mentions

English (40)  Swedish (1)  All languages (41)
Showing 1-5 of 40 (next | show all)
The writing was uninteresting,the narrative soulless,and I still dont understand the connection between a 8th century Korean princess and modern day middle-aged academic :/ ( )
1 vote Litrvixen | Jun 23, 2022 |
It was a bit confusing. There did not seem to be a flow to the book. I did not like the second half especially about her affair. I thought, what does this have to do with anything? It made me not like the characters. ( )
  srlib12 | Oct 16, 2021 |
Discontinued. ( )
  HelenBaker | Feb 25, 2021 |
I expected greater things from this book than what I received. How can a book about the tumultuous life of a Crown Princess in Korea centuries ago be boring? And yet, it was. For one thing, let us not underestimate the importance of chapters. They are a way for the reader to take a break from the story for reflection and pondering. It seemed as if the first part of the book just kept going on and on and by the time it came to an end it was already fuzzy in my mind. They were so many interesting experiences that got lost in the writing. The second part was better because it didn't try to span an entire life, just a section of a life. Whatever was missing from the first part (indepth descriptions, dialogue, fleshed out experiences) was present in the second, which made the book not an entire waste of time. ( )
  carliwi | Sep 23, 2019 |
The other reviewers are right: this is a very strange book! The first half was the fictional account (based on real memoirs) of a Korean princess, as told by her ghost. The second half was a a third-person account of a modern woman (Margaret Drabble fictionalized) who reads the memoirs on a plane (the same words we read?) and becomes obsessed with or haunted by the dead princess. Certainly an interesting idea, but I'm not sure Drabble succeeded in writing her "transcultural tragicomedy." ( )
  bookishblond | Oct 24, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 40 (next | show all)
The author's preface claims that she's searching for 'universal transcultural human characteristics'. The trouble with this quest is that you're likely to run with your own culture, amplifying its ethics into universality. Drabble looks at 18th-century Seoul and finds Primrose Hill. She reads a terrifying memoir by a woman with no proper name and sees a counselling case. The past ceases to be strange or beautiful and subsides under a dust of explication.
added by Nickelini | editThe Guardian, David Jays (Aug 22, 2004)
 
Despite all Drabble’s efforts with the superglue of her resourceful intelligence, the two halves of this diptych never really cohere. The second half is an entertaining but not all that remarkable novella, part travelogue and part fiction. The first half, on the other hand, as luridly eventful and as stylistically rich as any Jacobean tragedy, shows Drabble in brilliant form.
added by Nickelini | editThe Spectator, Francis King (Aug 21, 2004)
 
Behind the literary games is an implausible but gorgeously trashy romance. I lapped that up, too - without anyone being the wiser. Rarely has feminist escapism been so stylishly disguised.
 
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Epigraph
"The dead weep with joy when their books are reprinted." -- The Russian Ark, Alexander Sokurov, 2003
Dedication
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When I was a little child, I pined for a red silk skirt.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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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 Babs Halliwell, with her own complicated past, seems the perfect envoy - having read the memoirs of the Crown Princess on the plane to Seoul, Babs has become utterly engrossed in her story. But why has the Red Queen picked Babs to keep her story alive, and what else does she want from her? Set in 18th-century Korea and the present day, The Red Queenis a rich, playful and atmospheric novel about love, about personal and public history, and what it means to be remembered.

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Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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