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The Dragon Lady Hardcover – 13 Jun. 2019
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Louisa Treger's brilliant second novel is a daring blend of romance, crime and history, and an intelligent exposé of the inherent injustice and consequences of all forms of oppression. -- Tsitsi Dangarembga, author of Nervous Conditions Published On: 2018-11-15
Treger has captured the last days of colonial Rhodesia perfectly. It is not just Lady Courtauld's story, but also the people fighting for the country's future. And while the book may only focus on a small piece of Zimbabwe's long complicated history, it does so with emotion and fire. -- Sally Partridge, author of Mine Published On: 2018-12-06
An absolutely gripping historical novel. -- Niso Smith
If you like your books to immerse you in a different time and place, you'll love this. -- Beth Miller, author of The Good Neighbour
A remarkable story about the bravery and compassion of a little-known couple at a pivotal time in the history of Zimbabwe. Treger switches elegantly between narrators, time and place, and wears her meticulous research lightly in this fascinating novel. -- Annabel Abbs, author of Frieda: A Novel of the Real Lady Chatterley
An evocative, beautifully written story with a mystery at its heart. Clever and compelling I couldn't wait to find out who shot The Dragon Lady, but at the same time I was so immersed that I didn't want it to end. Highly recommended -- Claire Douglas, author of Do Not Disturb
The prose is lyrical, vivid and compelling, whether describing the settings, the characters, or the suspenseful intrigue of the story's plot. It comes as no surprise to learn of Treger's deep love for Africa, which, in her own words, is flowing through her blood and marrow. -- Essie Fox, author of The Last Days of Eda Grey
The perfect blend of fact and fiction and a brilliant evocation of a fascinating time and place, told with haunting clarity. A remarkable achievement. -- Rebecca Mascull, author of The Wild Air
A haunting, evocative novel that explores what it is to be an outsider with its portrayal of a truly remarkable woman. Louisa Treger vividly brings to life both the historical characters of Virginia (Ginie) and Stephen Courtauld, and life in 1950s Rhodesia, in a deeply moving blend of fact and fiction that is intimately personal while painting a broader picture of a divided society. -- Alison Layland, author of Riverflow
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As it turns out, the story is as beautiful as the writing! We share a deep love of Africa and it’s dark depths and beauty. The narrative is evocative, thought provoking, clear and full of intrigue. A book I will be re-reading purely for the pleasure of it even though I know the end...
Well done, you should be so proud!
A must read, for its clever plotting, lyricism and sheer intelligence, and amply delivering on the promise of Treger’s first acclaimed novel The Lodger. RW
Top international reviews
Bravo à l auteur !!!
However as someone who spent years in Rhodesia, her presentation of life in the country does not really ring true. The account of Catherine's bush upbringing seems quite a stretch. It was rare for white children to play with blacks and highly unlikely that a white girl brought up in Rhodesia would have dreamed of marrying the one next door. The colour bar was rarely crossed. Never mind that he is named ‘Mufaro”, which appears to be a made-up name that is unheard of in the country. The author also does not use the slang, idiom and language that was prevalent in the country. Rhodesians did not simply use British English, they had a distinctive lexicon and style. Likewise the “pet hornbill” story is also unrealistic, nobody I knew ever kept such a bird and in any case one would not have died after a day without water in its bowl: they get their water requirement from their food. Similarly the killing of Jonggy comes across as fantasy horror and owes more to Glenn Close and Fatal Attraction than to reality. There are no ants in Zimbabwe capable of bringing down a lemur, let alone transforming it from flesh and blood to fly-blown skull in a few minutes. The type of guns Rhodesian farmers used would have obliterated such a small animal, not lodged a bullet in its thigh.
Also not really credible is the story of the houseboy being dragged from a car and the “tar and feather” reference to the klu klux klan. All of those concepts belong to somewhere in the deep south of the United States, they bear no relation to the Rhodesian setting. Likewise the idea that a someone would have been summarily diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia in dusty remote Rhodesia in the 1950’s is vaguely laughable: the disorder was not even so categorized in Europe until 1959. As one who lived in Umtali I can say there were numerous churches, not just one. Yes, whites were gossipy and they did ostracize anyone who fraternized too closely with blacks. However this was less so with the churches. While the author tries to portray the church as the ultimate bastion of racism, the reality is that many churches were involved in mission work helping the blacks with education and so forth.
Said by the author to be to be vivacious and racy, Lady Courthauld is however presented as rather flat. She was hardly a southern Idina Sackville. Similarly Diana Richardson comes across as a one-dimensional cartoon figure. Both are in need of further character development.
Louisa Treger handles the claustrophobic prejudice of white Rhodesia with her customary deft prose. Her descriptions of the beauties of the African country, the sensitive but deeply candid Ginie Courtauld and her benign, philanthropist husband Stephen lift us above the hatred of a society that is determined to uphold segregation. Superbly researched this is a beautifully told story about a time in recent African history that is even more relevant today as our world struggles to accept racial difference.
Thoughts: This is a beautifully written novel which brings the vivid African landscape, peoples and shifting societal and political views to life and is hard to forget after you finish. While some of the attitudes of the main characters might strike you as awfully politically correct, this is based on real-life characters and the history of this setting has been extensively researched by the author. "The Dragon Lady," explores the cost of trying to make a difference in a volatile era, and the tragedy that can occur from the most unlikely sources.
It reads easily despite the complexities of the world in which it is set. Written from 3 points of view, at different times, it adds to the dimension of the story being told rather than complicating it.
I loved reading about the characters, the geography, the politics, and the rebellion of those trying to make a better world. I was at times sad, and often disgusted (as while some things have changed, many things have stayed the same in the world), and I felt a kinship to Ginie despite my not doing anything like that which she has seen, or experienced.
I won't rehash the book, but if you like historical time piece stories that are factual, fleshed out by fiction, you should like this. Even if you aren't looking for a story based on real life, it reads like a fascinating story- a who done it- and why? Set in years past yet still so relevant today. It moves along at a steady pace, and despite some of the underdeveloped characters or potential story arcs, the primary story- the backbone- which is progressive, liberal Ginie and Stephen in a highly prejudicial era. The story wraps up, and feels complete.
I feel honored to have been given a chance to read this book. I hope it is enjoyed by many.
I knew a bit about the Courtauld family due to my travels and museum visits, so this book was a way to learn more - the brothers collected art and Sam created and donated collections and money for public access in Great Britain. My primary interest is in the art deco restoration of the Eltham house and La Rochelle in Rhodesia/Zimbabwe. Sadly, those things are essentially ignored in this book to focus on the background and murder of Virginia. That's ok, her story is interesting.
My issue is the constant back and forth between three time periods. It felt jarring at times to me. I get that the author wanted to give the story (fictionalized parts and known facts alike) a but of mystery, but I found myself losing the emotional build up of the racial politics and work in Rhodesia when we're going back to Virginia's first marriage in Italy. All of that felt like filler to make the book longer. Nonetheless, I did like this book.
I didn't know anything about this incredible lady and her forward thinking ways and this book does an incredible job of showcasing them in dual timelines. As others have noted, this book takes liberties mixing fact and fiction but nevertheless, the story is very sleekly told.