Thursday, May 10, 2007

The Red Queen by Margaret Drabble

I am ambivalent about Margaret Drabble. I know she is a respected writer with a wide variety of published works. Her stories are absorbing, and I have no trouble finishing anything of hers I start. The Oxford Companion to English Literature, which she edits, is a treasured and trusted resource. But…
Something always stops me from being an enthusiastic fan. I recently got a copy of this novel published in 2004 (paperback in 2005) and have had it on my TBR pile for a couple of months. I started it the other day, and almost invoked my “rule of 50.”
However, something was drawing me in deeper, and I kept going. Maybe it was the spirit of Lady Hong hovering over my shoulder as she hovered over Drabble’s and her main character Barbara Halliwell.
Drabble's overly apologetic forward put me off a bit, and the (sometimes) clumsy and repetitious first section was annoying. I also saw a minor error or two. None of this mattered -- I couldn't stop.
The second section was a different story – it really hooked me and I am glad I stayed for the ride. The story is atmospheric and engaging, and even a bit haunting. You really have to read it to understand what I mean here.
Last night, I went to Amazon and bought the actual memoirs that gave birth to the novel, so we will see. I have to say this is the best Drabble novel I have read.

--Chiron, 5/10/07

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