Title: The Dragon Lady
Author: Louisa Treger
Publisher: Bloomsbury Caravel
Publication Date: 13th June 2019
Thank you to the publisher for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
I think The Dragon Lady is one of those novels which tries to be too many different things at once, and therefore ends up not exploring each of its themes to their full potential. Telling the life story of liberal activist Lady Virginia Courtauld, this book attempted to be a biography, crime novel and romance all at once – and sadly, this combination didn’t quite work for me.
Before picking up this book, I had never heard of Ginie Courtauld, so I was eager to learn more about this fascinating woman who defied the social customs of her time in more ways than deciding to get a shocking tattoo of a snake on her leg. During her time in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) in the 1950s, she and her husband fought for racial equality despite their liberal views making them unpopular amongst their European peers.
Although we get told about Ginie and Stephen’s activism throughout the novel, I never felt as though I was given the opportunity to truly discover what Ginie was thinking and feeling as the various events took place. The timeline skipped around a lot, especially during the first half of the book, and I found that this stopped me from truly getting into the story, since I’d just be getting to know one set of characters only to find myself pulled away to a completely different time and place.
A definite strength of Louisa Treger’s writing, though, is her descriptive prose. I especially liked the parts of the novel set in Rhodesia; I could literally feel the stifling heat as I read, and could vividly picture the vibrant gardens surrounding Ginie and Stephen’s home. I’m not normally one to particularly notice descriptive writing, but in this case it definitely helped bring the setting to life, and was one of my favourite things about the book.
The Dragon Lady transported me to a place and period of history I previously had no knowledge of, which I always enjoy when reading historical fiction. Unfortunately the characters fell a little flat for me, though. It might have been the jumping around in the beginning, but I never quite managed to connect to the characters, giving this more the feel of a factual biography rather than a gripping novel.