Jennifer Reese
October 08, 2004 AT 04:00 AM EDT

The Red Queen

type
Book
Current Status
In Season
author
Margaret Drabble
publisher
Harcourt
genre
Fiction

We gave it an A-

An 18th-century Korean princess tells her harrowing life story in the lyrical first half of Margaret Drabble’s lovely, intelligent 16th novel. The Red Queen. Married at 10, the melancholy princess bears her first son at 15, loses him two years later, and subsequently watches her husband descend into madness. In the book’s brisker, funnier second half, thoroughly modern Babs Halliwell, a sexy British scholar, reads the same memoir we have just finished while flying to an academic conference in Seoul. Transfixed by the narrator’s wistful voice and struck by parallels to her own life, she delves deeper into the princess’ world during her visit to Korea — triggering both a brief romance and a series of life-changing events.

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