Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Book Review: The Red Queen, by Margaret Drabble

by Eric Green

Book Review:

The Red Queen
"A Transcultural Tragicomedy"
Margaret Drabble
McClelland and Stewart

This is my first Drabble book. I was warned that it was unlike any of her many previous writings. That said, I can't wait to read her other books. She is an amazing writer. Everything about her writing is interesting. Her character developments. Her humor. Her way of being serious in a way that keeps you interested and never a boring moment. Her ability to move between centuries and completely different world and still keep everything coherent and understandable. There are no glitches.

"The Red Queen" reminded one reviewer of Arthur Golden's "Memoirs of a Geisha "[1997] which is certainly true. For me, it was also reminiscent of Sheila Dong's "Shanghai." [2001, Perennial]

In both of these books, and most certainly "The Red Queen" the reader not only is entertained with the novel and it's little mysteries, but you learn a whole lot about the country in which the novel takes place. Golden gives insights into the Japanese world and Dong in the world of China before 1948. Those insights help explain contemporary Japan and China

Similarly, Drabble's book gives valuable insights in Korea, both North and South.

"The Red Queen" is broken up into two parts, the 1700s world of Korean dynasties and then the very current world of Korea. How Drabble fits these two worlds together, 200 years apart, is only something that Drabble can accomplish.

The two key characters are Lady Hong and Barbara Halliwell. The family members that surround both seem to also run parallel to each other. Where actual history blends with fiction is blurred in a very nice way.

Then at the end Drabble herself enters the fray.

This is one of those unique novels and begs to be read.