When Stephanie Duncan got in touch from Bloomsbury to see if I would like a copy of The Dragon Lady by Louisa Treger in return for an honest review, I have to confess I couldn’t resist as The Dragon Lady was my nickname amongst younger students in my teaching days! That said, I’ve heard such wonderful things about Louisa Treger’s writing and I’m so glad I accepted this version of The Dragon Lady and would like to thank Stephanie for sending me a copy.
Published by Bloomsbury on 13th June 2019, The Dragon Lady is available for purchase through these links.
The Dragon Lady
Opening with the shooting of Lady Virginia ‘Ginie’ Courtauld in her tranquil garden in 1950s Rhodesia, The Dragon Lady tells Ginie’s extraordinary story, so called for the exotic tattoo snaking up her leg. From the glamorous Italian Riviera before the Great War to the Art Deco glory of Eltham Palace in the thirties, and from the secluded Scottish Highlands to segregated Rhodesia in the fifties, the narrative spans enormous cultural and social change. Lady Virginia Courtauld was a boundary-breaking, colourful and unconventional person who rejected the submissive role women were expected to play.
Ostracised by society for being a foreign divorcée at the time of Edward VIII and Mrs Simpson, Ginie and her second husband ,Stephen Courtauld, leave the confines of post-war Britain to forge a new life in Rhodesia, only to find that being progressive liberals during segregation proves mortally dangerous. Many people had reason to dislike Ginie, but who had reason enough to pull the trigger?
Deeply evocative of time and place, The Dragon Lady subtly blends fact and fiction to paint the portrait of an extraordinary woman in an era of great social and cultural change.
My Review of The Dragon Lady
Exotic Ginie Courtauld is the Dragon Lady.
I absolutely loved Louisa Treger’s The Dragon Lady with its sweeping narrative blending fact and fiction in a beautifully written story of love and life. Alongside this historical and socio-political tale is an absorbing mystery too so that The Dragon Lady defies a genre label, but rather weaves a spell of enchantment around all readers.
The Rhodesian setting is masterfully conveyed. The colours, aromas, flora and fauna truly transport the reader evocatively and vividly. However, it is the country’s divisions and politics at all levels that really bring the era alive. Real people and events from history sit perfectly alongside fictionalised ones so that Louisa Treger has woven a mesmerising tapestry of African life in the 1950s. The plot is brilliant; diligently researched and carefully crafted, making for a story that I found completely engrossing.
The character of Ginie left me saddened and intrigued. I feel I know Ginie Courtauld well from reading Louisa Treger’s words because she is able to place the reader inside Ginie’s mind so convincingly. Ginie’s portrayal is moving and affecting. The more I read the more I empathised and sympathised with her and the entire novel conveyed a wistful sadness and hiraeth that made my heart ache for her. It felt worse that this is a real person and not simply a character made from a writer’s imagination.
The plot infuriated me – not because of anything negative in the writing, but because Louisa Treger conveys with such skill the injustices of gender, class and race that create unspeakable events so accurately. Things happen that incensed me but were only too believable.
It’s hard to define just how Louisa Treger has created such a beautiful novel. The historical detail is impressive. The fictionalised aspects are absorbing. The characterisation and sense if place are both vivid. The plot is brilliantly crafted and engaging. And yet somehow The Dragon Lady transcends each element into something even more special that I found touching, enraging and affecting. I thoroughly enjoyed The Dragon Lady and cannot recommend it highly enough.
About Louise Treger
Louisa Treger, a classical violinist, studied at the Royal College of Music and the Guildhall School of Music. She subsequently turned to literature, earning a Ph.D. in English at University College London, where she was awarded the West Scholarship and the Rosa Morison Scholarship. Her first novel, The Lodger, was published in 2014.