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Retrieved Duke University Press. Not in Italy. Not in London. Not in Africa. However, there was something about Virginia. Something that drew men towards her.
Perhaps it was her quest for adventure or her deep and generous nature. One thing was for sure, this rebellious marchioness was not the kind of woman one could easily forget.
Treger writes with a great deal of empathy towards historical controversy and a keen eye for what makes historical fiction great.
Treger writes with a compelling style and a very impressive narrative that made this book impossible to put down. I adored the characterisation of Virginia.
Virginia is a woman who is born to a world that is ordered and has a sense of the proper. Virginia is like Wallis Simpson, a gallant spirit, who is occasionally shaken but never gives up her fight to be accepted and treated as an equal.
When Virginia sees with her own eyes how the natives of Rhodesia were treated, there was no wonder that she wanted to help them any way she could, for she knows what it is like to be discriminated against.
This book touches on the terrible suffering caused by white supremacy in Rhodesia, and also the effects that this had, not only on the native population but also on the white settlers.
The amount of research that has gone into this book has to be commended. I knew next to nothing about the Courtaulds, but after reading The Dragon Lady, I felt compelled to learn more abut this remarkable couple.
And, of course, I have, for their descriptions were so elegantly described in The Dragon Lady that I would have recognised them without the captions under the pictures.
Treger has not only brought the Courtaulds back to life, but she has breathed life into the buildings and the time her novel is set in as well.
I could feel the heat of the midday sun, and I could hear the chatter of the monkeys in the trees. Wonderfully descriptive and totally mesmerising.
The story is written with a great deal of imagination and energy. I enjoyed every word and every sentence.
The Dragon Lady is a treat that no historical fiction fans will want to miss out on. I Highly Recommend. Review by Mary Anne Yarde. The Coffee Pot Book Club.
Jun 16, Vicki Antipodean Bookclub rated it really liked it. Ginie was born in , the daughter of a Romanian shipping merchant.
As a teenager, she had a snake tattooed on her leg from ankle to thigh, the inspiration for the book's title. Having had a disastrous marriage to an Italian Count annulled by the Vatican, Ginie met Stephen Courtauld and married him in During their time in London, Stephen and Ginie renovated Eltham Palace, an ex-royal residence, and bought Jongy, a ring-tailed lemur who travelled with them when they moved to Zimbabwe, or Rhodesia as it was known in the 's.
The Dragon Lady focuses mainly on the Courtauld's time in Zimbabwe: the development of their estate La Rochelle, their philanthropic work and their support of racial equality.
In the book, the Courtauld's are deeply unpopular with their ex-pat British neighbours and the target of a campaign to drive them out of Africa.
Encompassing the 1st and 2nd World Wars and the fledgling campaign for Zimbabwean independence, the author captures a large swathe of twentieth century history through the lives of this fascinating couple.
I was searching the internet for more information about Ginie and Stephen and would love to read a biography of Ginie in particular.
A very special thank you to Bloomsbury and Netgalley for allowing me to read this book in exchange for an honest review. Ginie Courtauld is a difficult personality.
Her mother, Rosa, openly disliked her for being spirited and excessive. Her father, Riccardo was more loving. Her mother was thrilled when Gini was to be married to Paulo Spinola, who came from an aristocratic Italian family in Genoa.
As a young woman, Gini lied to and omitted giving important facts about herself to both of her husbands prior to marriage. These lies caused the failure of her marriage to Paulo.
She waited until years after being married to Stephen to finally be truthful. By then, Stephen was so full devoted to her, it did not matter.
Gini longed for social status, and spent a great deal of effort in trying to achieve her place in the elite class. As a divorcee, she was never fully accepted in England.
She took each social rejection to heart. Pain had settled in and fused with her DNA. She loved being mysterious and told many a different story about the origins of her snake tattoo, which eventually led to her being called The Dragon Lady.
She had such great hopes for achieving a new social prominence in Rhodesia, but again was met with scorn for her belief that the Africans were being treated unfairly by the white majority, who were racists and elitists.
While she worked hard to better the lives of those in her community, it felt like it was always being done with an expectation that others should be extremely grateful and glorify her.
Stephen Courtauld was the more likeable one of the Courtaulds. He was a lover of art, fine architecture, botany, music and theater. Despite threatening letters ; physical harm to his personal property, and endless social shunning, Stephen continued doing what he believed right.
He was awarded his knighthood for his work and leadership in the establishment of the Rhodes National Gallery, for an outstanding contribution to the civic life of the community and for wide-ranging philanthropy.
Instead of seeking social status, Stephen desired social conscience. The results at time were terrible, and Gini was always mindless of how she set things into motion.
It is obvious that the author, Louisa Treger, meticulously researched the Courtaulds. The readers get to experience the grandeur of the Courtauld's homes.
I would have prefered the heading to give more specific years. That would have made it seem more biographical and less fictionalized to me.
I recommend this book to any one who loves historical fiction, especially the sub-category of fictionalized biography.
Please follow my reviews at www. Feb 02, Martine Bailey rated it it was amazing Shelves: historical-novels , historical-research , travel , true-story , suspense.
The novel is a tale of colonial life in what was once Rhodesia, and the author tells it with ravishing bravura. It is the s when Ginie and her husband Stephen set up their estate in Africa and strive to improve conditions for the local people, thereby earning the scorn of the white population.
On one level it is a story of those wanting to do good bringing about unfortunate consequences, as it is clear from the opening scene that Ginie will be shot in her beloved garden.
In a feat of social ambition, she propels herself from her relatively modest Italian-Romanian background, to become the adored wife of wealthy philanthropist Stephen Courtauld.
She is a sympathetic and complex character — though vampish and desperate for the acceptance that eludes her, Ginie is artistic, generous and well-meaning.
She has painful secrets that eat away at her happiness, and throws her energies into her beloved pets and projects. Despite their seeming limitless wealth the Courtaulds appear to be rootless and unlucky.
Nationalism stirs the local population and their treatment by the white minority is at times deeply shocking. Louisa Treger has written a ravishing book that evokes a lost, morally troubled world, where old and new values clash.
At its centre, Virginia Courtauld is an alluring character who mixes glamour and tragedy in a uniquely readable and thought-provoking way.
Jun 17, Ffion rated it liked it Shelves: blog-reviews , historical-fiction. 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.
Before picking up th Thank you to the publisher for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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 s, she and her husband fought for racial equality despite their liberal views making them unpopular amongst their European peers.
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.
Read more of my reviews at Sepia Tinted Window. Apr 26, Bebe Sarah Brechner rated it it was amazing. Readers will enjoy this stimulating novel based on a real life couple, the fabulously wealthy and mysterious Courtaulds, who defied the well entrenched social norms of British colonialism in South Africa Rhodesia during the s and s.
The author has developed a sensitive background and story on what motivated this couple, particularly Virginia, to step out and confront the standard and rampant prejudice of those times.
Recommended for public library collections and book clubs. Jun 27, Tessa Arlen rated it it was amazing Shelves: favorites. Five stars for this superbly wrought story of love, strife and forgiveness.
Seeking to escape the judgmental confines of post-war Britain, Stephan and Ginie move to what they hope is the freedom of Zimbabwe, t Five stars for this superbly wrought story of love, strife and forgiveness.
Seeking to escape the judgmental confines of post-war Britain, Stephan and Ginie move to what they hope is the freedom of Zimbabwe, then known as Rhodesia.
But Rhodesia in the s was a country on the point of great cultural and social change, precariously teetering on the edge of political unrest.
The liberal Courtaulds find themselves in a narrow, deeply prejudiced white society where the indigenous people are enslaved in poverty and oppression.
Their attempts to help the native population emerge from under their white oppressors was met with a dismissive scorn among the white Rhodesian farmers that escalated to violence particularly toward the unconventional Ginie.
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.
Aug 06, Joan Happel rated it really liked it. In Rhodesia, the couple turn to philanthropic endeavors while also trying to bring equality between the African and white populations.
The two built a theater which they insisted be desegregated and also contributed to the building of the Rhodes National Gallery now the National Gallery of Zimbabwe , to which they contributed many great works of art.
This was a fascinating story of a woman I was unfamiliar with. Her life and her achievements were enthralling and I found myself looking for more information about her.
She was a woman ahead of her time, even down to the tattoo she had on her leg thus the title. Refusing to adhere to the societal constraints of her time, Ginie followed her beliefs and her conscience often making enemies of those in her own class.
This will be a great addition to your monthly book club lists. Jan 07, Alison rated it it was amazing. 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 s Rhodesia, in a deeply moving blend of fact and fiction that is intimately personal while painting a broader picture of a divided society.
The novel begins with the shooting of Ginie Courtauld, known as the Dragon Lady because of her mysterious tattoo.
The mystery of her death is a taut, compelling thread throughout, but the novel is much more, movingly portraying the life of the Courtaulds in Rhodesia, and the events that took them there.
When Ginie marries Stephen Courtauld, she dreams of being accepted into the London society he moves in, but her background is a barrier to acceptance.
They hope that a move to the beautiful estate of La Rochelle in Rhodesia will bring them a sense of belonging, but they find a country riven by division between the African population and the white settlers.
As the Courtaulds make numerous efforts to secure a fairer life, for their own employees and for the wider African community, they begin to receive threatening letters and once again find themselves outsiders in their society.
Growing tension also highlights the secrets they keep from each other — their mutual revelation was a particularly moving scene to me.
By contrasting the hardships and suffering faced by the Africans in Rhodesia with the personal losses and hurts of Ginie and Stephen, and their respective responses — growing political awareness among the African community, and the sponsoring of public works by the Courtaulds — The Dragon Lady explores how grief and tragedy can be experienced on many levels, each equally valid to the person suffering them, and how privilege is not always a blessing, but can be used for good.
As with Dorothy Richardson in her excellent debut, The Lodger, Louisa Treger takes a historical figure and weaves a compelling and thought-provoking story around her life, which I thoroughly recommend.
I received this from Netgalley. Good story, interesting and nicely written. Jan 01, Emma Curtis rated it it was amazing.
I was delighted to receive an advance copy of Louisa Treger's new novel from Bloombury, having loved The Lodger.
The Dragon Lady is a gorgeous book, a beautifully written meld of fact and fiction. Louisa Treger gets right into the heart of Rhodesian ex-pat society, with it's petty snobbery, racism and casual cruelty.
Ginnie and Simon Courtauld try their best to do right by the indigenous population and to find meaning in their own lives, but are thwarted by their white neighbours who resent the I was delighted to receive an advance copy of Louisa Treger's new novel from Bloombury, having loved The Lodger.
Ginnie and Simon Courtauld try their best to do right by the indigenous population and to find meaning in their own lives, but are thwarted by their white neighbours who resent the interference in the status quo and the threat it means to their comfortable and privileged way of life.
Things boil over with horrific results. A very good read! Sep 13, H. Callum rated it it was amazing Shelves: historical-fiction. The Dragon Lady is an impressive piece of historical fiction, winding us through the amazing and ahead-of-the-time life and perspectives of Virginia Courtauld.
Louisa Treger has melded fact with fiction impeccably, and the language, detail, and mood of this book make it a perfect companion to the story of Virginia Courtauld.
The Dragon Lady is a reminder of how the past ghosts the present, and is a testament that fiction done well can make history relevant and alive for modern readers.
A superb The Dragon Lady is an impressive piece of historical fiction, winding us through the amazing and ahead-of-the-time life and perspectives of Virginia Courtauld.
A superb read. Aug 30, Ginger Pollard rated it it was amazing. What a fabulous book! It's based on true events, but the author has made a great story!
Takes place in South Africa which makes it wild and mysterious for anyone who has never visited.