The Red Queen


(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Hardcover, 9780151011063, 352pp.)

Publication Date: October 2004

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Description

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.

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