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The Red Queen Paperback – Bargain Price, October 3, 2005
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From Publishers Weekly
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Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
Chosen to be the bride of the Crown Prince when both are ten years old, the Princess abandons her family and marries the prince that year. We hear her adult voice relating the sad changes her husband undergoes after their marriage, as he becomes increasingly fearful and eventually insane, committing atrocities, including murder. "I failed my husband," she says, unable to stop his rampages. Describing her training to be queen, the birth of her children and their fates, and her experience in the claustrophobic court, she breathes life into her descriptions of her unusual existence. Though her observations are honest and fair, her language, not surprisingly, is elegant and formal. She keeps her distance, not really sharing her innermost thoughts and feelings.
In Part II, Babs Halliwell, a contemporary scholar in Oxford, leaves for Korea to deliver a paper at a conference on globalization. Drabble creates obvious parallels between the life of the Princess and that of Halliwell from the outset of Part II. As Halliwell boards the plane, she brings with her a copy of the Princess's memoirs, "sent to her anonymously, packaged in cardboard, through Amazon.com," which she reads in flight.Read more ›
"The Red Queen" is intelligent and, despite requiring some effort to read, engrossing. Drabble tells a wonderful story and both portions of the novel are imbued with intelligent characters, well-constructed language, and a quiet sense of humor. The first part of the story, narrated by the Red Queen, is particularly unusual and insightful.
The novel's failing is that its central conceit - that Babs and the Red Queen are in some way linked, or more particularly that their stories are linked - falls flat. Although I enjoyed each part of the book, I saw little in the way of parallels beyond the obvious, and the consequences of these were not apparent. The second part of the book thus lacked focus, and resorted to an unnecessarily trite ending.
The little girl was horrified on her long visits to the palace, where she was petted and fed strange foods, and painted with cosmetics. At home, palace servants attended to her and her parents deferred to her. She wanted to die. Sick with fear on her wedding day, she was married at age ten to Prince Sado, also ten, who called his wife his "little Red Queen" because of her prized red silk skirt. The married children played together, with dolls, kites, a toy horse, and the toy soldiers Sado loved. The marriage was consummated five years later.
The Princess's first son died. Her father-in-law, King Yongjo, was an odd man with many obsessions and insecurities who treated his son, Sado, harshly. He decreed that the couple's second son, Chongjo, was to be groomed to be king because Sado was becoming mentally unstable. As the young mother worried over her beloved son's fate, her husband became madder and madder. Prince Sado blamed his mania on his father's lack of love toward him; his actions were violent and terrifying. Complex court and family maneuvering and catastrophes shaped the Princess's remaining years.
After the princess narrates the balance of her tragic life, the story switches to modern-day England, focusing on Dr.Read more ›
However, as I was reading, I couldn't help but compare it to People of the Book: A Novel. I thought the structure of that book "worked": it started in the present and alternated with the past, each time going a little deeper. But this had all of the Crown Princess' story, then all of the modern professor's story. The Crown Princess was truly compelling- why would I want to leave her for the professor?
Because Drabble did an excellent job with her. It was slower going, but that's to be expected as the Princess spoke in the first person and the professor's story was told, from the "limited omniscient" (and let's leave it at that). She has more freedom from the princess, but she is, in her own way, just as lonely. Her choices made me cringe- sorry, being a concubine is even less attractive in the modern era than it was in the ancient- but in Drabble's hands I could understand why she made them.
Yes, some of the parallels were too obvious, but some were subtle and touching. I did not like the way the author inserted herself into the story- let's keep that fourth wall up, please- but it felt, in a way, as if she didn't want to let go of the characters and wanted to make sure she helped play as much of a part as she could. It's difficult to find too much fault for that.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I didn't especially like the book but I did get a better understanding of 18th century Korea. Not a page turner.Published 6 months ago by CMB
Brilliant story of eighteenth century Korea brought into the twenty-first century with fascinating characters in both eras. Wonderful subjects for an extraordinary writer. Read morePublished 9 months ago by Susan Stirn
I read this for book club. It was okay. I learned a lot about 18th C Korea but the second part was fairly contrived.Published 14 months ago by Peggy
A word of advice do not purchase "The Red Queen" by Margaret Drabble is totally not accurate. Read morePublished 18 months ago by inum78
Holy. Cow. So, if you like.. Hunger Games.. Throne of Glass.. Graceling.. this is a book for you. I absolutely loved this book. Read morePublished 19 months ago by Jenelle Klavenga
I found this book fascinating. I enjoyed the parallels between the ages and decided to reread it to take in the entire story!Published on July 10, 2013 by M. G.
...but I found this book oddly uncompelling, especially in light of what might have been interesting subject matter. Some good moments, but overall...tedious.Published on June 1, 2013 by Jarrett
Usual excellent writing by Margaret Drabble.
I learned a good deal about North Korea.
The two part nature of the book was well done.