The official blog of Historical Fiction author, Mary Anne Yarde, and home to The Coffee Pot Book Club. Come and join Mary Anne on the hunt for everything historical, as well as mythological. Oh, and let's not forget the odd book or two! Grab a cup of coffee and enjoy...
#BookReview — The Dragon Lady, by Louisa Treger #Historical #Africa #Romance @louisatreger
By Louisa Treger
Opening with the shooting of Lady Virginia
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, from the secluded
Scottish Highlands to sultry, segregated Rhodesia in the fifties, the narrative
spans enormous cultural and social change. Lady Virginia Courtauld was a
boundary-breaking, extremely colourful and unconventional character 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.
Subtly blending fact and fiction, deeply evocative of time and place in an era
of great social change and threaded throughout with intrigue, this novel keeps
the reader guessing from the outset who shot the Dragon Lady and why.
a lifetime trying to forget, yet the smallest things take me back to the time
the Dragon Lady was shot…”
that was the word Virginia Peirano’s mother would have used to describe her.
Not even a convent education could curb Virginia’s recalcitrant nature.When she was a teenager, Virginia had a large
snake tattooed down the front of her leg. Virginia never told anyone what
possessed her to do it although she liked to make up wonderful stories about
the reasons why she had done something so irresponsible.
marriage into the wealthy Spinola family should have brought contentment. Only
it did not. Instead, it brought scandal. The Vatican eventually annulled their
marriage. Virginia was now a divorcée, and although she married the very
wealthy and decorated war hero, Major Stephen Courtauld, Virginia would never
quite fit in. Not in Italy. Not in London. Not in Africa.
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.
the romance of the Italian Rivera, the beau
monde of London society, the restoration of Eltham Palace, to the sheer
beauty of La Rochelle Estate in Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), The Dragon Lady by Louisa
Treger is the compelling account of Lady Virginia Courtauld’s remarkable life.
Treger writes with a great deal of empathy towards
historical controversy and a keen eye for what makes historical fiction great.
Treger has chosen her muse well, Virginia Courtauld’s story is one of success
in a world where a king is forced to choose between his crown and the woman he
loves, and the natives of a country have to fight to be treated as equals
because of the colour of their skin. Like the scintillating Virginia, Treger’s
writing could never be referred to as dull. Treger writes with a compelling
style and a very impressive narrative that made this book impossible to put
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
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 treatment of Mary, one of Virginia and Stephen’s
servants, was incredibly effective in demonstrating the corruption of the
government and the legal system during this era.
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. When I looked at
photographs of Eltham Palace and the La Rochelle Estate, it was as if I had
seen these images before. 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. Treger’s portrayal of Africa was rich
and vibrant. 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
The story is written with a great deal of
imagination and energy. Treger’s elegant turn of phrase makes this book utterly
irresistible and immensely readable. I enjoyed every word and every sentence.
The Dragon Lady is a treat that no historical fiction fans will want to miss
Born in London, Louisa Treger began her career
as a classical violinist. She studied at the Royal College of Music and the
Guildhall School of Music, and worked as a freelance orchestral player and
Louisa subsequently turned to literature,
gaining a First Class degree and a PhD in English at University College London,
where she focused on early twentieth century women’s writing.