The Red Queen

The Red Queen

A Transcultural Tragicomedy

Book - 2004
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Prior to her impending trip to Seoul, Barbara Halliwell receives a memoir of a Korean crown princess, written more than 200 years ago. But from whom? The story she avidly reads turns out to be one of great intrigue as well as tragedy.
Publisher: Orlando : Harcourt, c2004
Edition: 1st U.S. ed
ISBN: 9780151011063
Branch Call Number: F
Characteristics: xii, 334 p. ; 24 cm


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Feb 04, 2018

I had this on my bookshelf for over four years before I finally decided to read it. As a Korean American who has taught some Korean history, I just wasn't in the mood to read yet more about Korea from a "Western" point of view. So I was pleasantly surprised to find how much the author got right about the history, and how much she could make me care about the ancient heroine.

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.

Although much happens to both heroines, I believe the "scarlet thread" that goes through both stories is parenthood. We see how horribly wrong it can go, and we see the great lengths which parents will go to in order to protect their children and legacy. That, perhaps, is why this story IS so universal, however the author may have stumbled in certain places.

May 27, 2016

7 out of 10. I enjoyed it, but can see where it would be confusing for some readers - it's not a straight, no-brainer read, so don't pick it up for a weekend at the beach.

Jun 22, 2011

I was able to pull through part one of The Red Queen, part 2 was boring and did not interest me I had to put it down unfinished.

Jun 03, 2008

This book was hard for me to read. I had to come to terms with Drabble's observer /narrator style of writing where there seemed to be little emotion. I did persevere to the end only to see what happened. Drabble did hook me as far as the story of the red queen goes, but did not hook me enough to read another of her books. I suspect there were more levels to the work than what I saw, but I did not want to work at it.


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