Summary and book reviews of The Red Queen by Margaret Drabble

The Red Queen

by Margaret Drabble

The Red Queen
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Oct 2004, 352 pages
    Paperback:
    Oct 2005, 348 pages

  • Rate this book


Buy This Book

About this Book

Book Summary

'With her usual deftness and clarity, Drabble crosses cultures and centuries...engrossing and provocative'.

Barbara Halliwell, on a grant at Oxford, receives an unexpected package-a memoir by a Korean crown princess, written more than two hundred years ago. A highly appropriate gift for her impending trip to Seoul. But from whom?

The story she avidly reads on the plane turns out to be one of great intrigue as well as tragedy. The Crown Princess Hyegyong recounts in extraordinary detail the ways of the Korean court and confesses the family dramas that left her childless and her husband dead by his own hand. Perhaps it is the loss of a child that resonates so deeply with Barbara . . . but she has little time to think of such things, she has just arrived in Korea.

She meets a certain Dr. Oo, and to her surprise and delight he offers to guide her to some of the haunts of the crown princess. As she explores the inner sanctums and the royal courts, Barbara 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? A beautifully told and ingeniously constructed novel, this is Margaret Drabble at her best.

Excerpt
The Red Queen

WHEN I WAS A LITTLE CHILD, I pined for a red silk skirt. I do not remember all the emotions of my childhood, but I remember this childish longing well. One of my many cousins came to visit us when I was five years old, and she had a skirt of red silk with patterned edgings, lined with a plain red silk of a slightly darker shade. It was very fashionable, and very beautiful. The gauzy texture was at once soft and stiff, and the colour was bold. Woven into it was a design of little summer flowers and butterflies, all in red. I loved it and I fingered it. That skirt spoke to my girlish heart. I wanted one like it, but I knew that my family was not as wealthy as my mother's sister's family, so I checked my desire, although I can see now that my mother and my aunt could read the longing in my eyes. My aunt and my cousins were delicate in their tastes, and like most women of that era, like most women of any era, they liked fine clothes. They came to...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
Introduction
In a way, The Red Queen is two novels - two simmering storylines set centuries apart yet entwined through one legacy. Showcasing her renowned imaginative powers, Margaret Drabble now plumbs a collage of worlds, from the private rooms of a Korean crown princess to a fateful conference in Seoul that unlocks a scholar's heart and mind.

While on a research grant at Oxford, Barbara Halliwell receives an unexpected package, shipped anonymously from an online bookseller. Though she is unable to determine who sent her this gift, she is intrigued and brings it with her en route to an international public-health meeting, ...
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Reviews

Media Reviews

Village Voice

Drabble's plain narrative tenaciousness gives her writing transparency and fire.

San Francisco Chronicle

A deliciously evocative tale of palace intrigue...one of the most inventive works of fiction in recent memory.

Chicago Tribune

Drabble's tale is a love song to literature, an illustration as to how reader and subject become intertwined.

Kirkus Reviews

Engrossing and provocative: a scarlet narrative thread reminds us how magical the novel can be in telling stories and lives.

Publishers Weekly

Nimbly jumping across time and around the globe, Drabble artfully stitches together the disparate strands of both women's lives with "a scarlet thread... of blood and joy." The voices of the dead reach out to the living, where the ancient and the modern "pass through one another, like clouds of bees, like distant galaxies... like the curving spirals of a double helix."

Booklist - Donna Seaman

Drabble is sleight-of-hand adept at slipping profoundly insightful musings on human nature, history, and social mores into scintillating and all-consuming novels.

Reader Reviews

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book

Margaret Drabble was born in 1939 in Sheffield, England. Her father was a barrister, county court judge and a novelist, and her sister is the author A.S. Byatt. She attended the Mount School in York from where she won a scholarship to Newnham College, Cambridge to read English. She received a double first. After graduating from Cambridge she joined the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford where she understudied for Vanessa Redgrave. She married the actor Clive Swift in 1960 and had three children. Following a divorce in 1975 she married Michael Holroyd in the early 1980s. The live in London and Somerset (South-East England).

She is the author of at least 16 novels and a range of non-fiction. Browse her complete bibliography at ...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Readalikes

Readalikes Full readalike results are for members only

If you liked The Red Queen, try these:

  • An Appetite for Violets jacket

    An Appetite for Violets

    by Martine Bailey

    Published 2015

    More about this book

    Read Reviews

    Inspired by eighteenth-century household books of recipes and set at the time of the invention of the first restaurants, An Appetite for Violets is a literary feast for lovers of historical fiction.

  • Abundance jacket

    Abundance

    by Sena Jeter Naslund

    Published 2007

    More about this book

    Read Reviews

    From the lush gardens of Versailles to the lights and gaiety of Paris, the verdant countryside of France, and finally the stark and terrifying isolation of a prison cell, Naslund brings the 18th Century, and Marie Antoinette, vividly to life.

Non-members are limited to two results. Become a member


Search Readalikes again
How we choose readalikes
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member
and discover your next great read!

Join Today!

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
The Opposite of Everyone
by Joshilyn Jackson

"Quirky and appealing characters, an engaging story, and honest dialogue make this a great book!"
- BookBrowse

About the book
Join the discussion!

Award Winners

  • Book Jacket: All We Have Left
    All We Have Left
    by Wendy Mills
    September 11, 2001 is a date that few Americans will ever forget. It was on this day that our ...
  • Book Jacket: A Great Reckoning
    A Great Reckoning
    by Louise Penny
    Canadian author Louise Penny is back with her twelfth entry in the Chief Inspector Armand Gamache ...
  • Book Jacket: Homegoing
    Homegoing
    by Yaa Gyasi
    It's all very well to challenge people to be the masters of their own destiny, but when you&#...

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Victoria
    by Daisy Goodwin

    Daisy Goodwin breathes new life into Victoria's story, and does so with sensitivity, verve, and wit." - Amanda Foreman

    Read Member Reviews

Who Said...

If there is anything more dangerous to the life of the mind than having no independent commitment to ideas...

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Word Play

The Big Holiday Wordplay:
$400+ in Prizes

Enter Now

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.