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The Dragon Lady - June book club

(65 Posts)
CariGransnet (GNHQ) Mon 03-Jun-19 10:42:23

Winners of The Dragon Lady should be receiving copies shortly. And here's the place to leave your thoughts and questions for the author.

Mapleleaf Fri 07-Jun-19 15:47:35

Received my copy today. Will read it on holiday and report back.

Marmight Fri 07-Jun-19 16:08:33

Mine has just arrived. Started it - looking good ...

SusieWilkinson Sun 09-Jun-19 21:24:11

Thank you for my copy of The Dragon Lady which I have read this weekend.
I was impressed with the amount of research Louisa Treger must have put in to create such an accurate portrayal of the Courtaulds and their unique story.
I felt as though I had been to Rhodesia by the time I had finished the book, the descriptions were so compelling and immersive, and all of the way through you are trying to piece together the story to work out who has shot Ginie.
A great enjoyable read, brilliantly written.

Mopsx4 Wed 12-Jun-19 21:36:03

Thank you for my copy of The Dragon Lady. I have just finished reading it. It was a very enjoyable informative read . I liked the ‘short’ chapters giving different characters perspectives although at first I did wonder how I would keep up with them- this actually posed no problem. I thought it was a good portrayal of an ex pat life ( lived abroad when young so experienced some of this)and the class system at that time. Louise Treger must have done a lot of research about the life of the Courtaulds. Would recommend this book and will now pass the book on for others to enjoy.
Question- what gave you the inspiration to tackle this subject?

mbody Fri 14-Jun-19 10:50:35

Well written and informative- quite rattled along. How did the author find out about all the detail, it’s as though she lived it.

heatherjw Fri 14-Jun-19 16:45:25

I have just finished reading this, and although it is not the genre of book I would normally choose to read, I really enjoyed it. As another Gransnet term has mentioned, the short chapters made it easy to follow the story and the wealth of contextual information. It is a cleaver weaving of historical fact, and fiction but makes for a very informative and enjoyable read. My question for Louis is whether she will now explore further periods in the Courtsuld's live as there is obviously a rich vein of historical resources to explore?

Marmight Sat 15-Jun-19 16:11:00

I enjoyed this. A beautifully
written, informative, exciting story with a mystery running throughout. I felt as if I were really there both in the UK and Rhodesia, experiencing all the different twists & turns of the story. The mix of fact and fiction is interesting- I wonder what reaction, if any, there has been from the Courtauld family?
Since reading this, I have discovered that Stephen Courtauld's nephew, Augustine (son of his brother Samuel) was married to Mollie Montgomerie who later became the wife of Rab Butler, who in turn was the widower of Sydney Courtauld, August's cousin. Their country house was Gatcombe Park (just down the road from me) which was originally owned by Samuel Courtauld and then bought by HM for Princess Anne. What a complicated but fascinating family! I'll look forward to discovering more ...

Harris27 Sat 15-Jun-19 17:58:28

Not normally my type of book but gave it a go. Was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed this. The short chapters helped and I kept up with all that transpired . How much research has she done to achieve a really good read? Will pass it on to my sister.thank you a real treat.

Yvonne1954 Sun 16-Jun-19 18:57:40

A beautifully written,rich and descriptive book about a real-life person.A fascinating haunting story. It kept me guessing all the way through!
Thank you for giving me the joy of reading this book ;-)
What were the early influences on your writing and how do they manifest in your work?

JAS Wed 19-Jun-19 07:33:55

I am really enjoying reading this book as I lived near Eltham Palace and find the place fascinating.
I wonder why many authors these days do not write in a chronological style but jump backwards and forwards in time. Many films also do this. I stick with it hoping that it will become clearer in the end but find it very confusing.
I will probably recommend this book to my book club for their thoughts and comments.

Mapleleaf Thu 20-Jun-19 11:23:08

I enjoyed this book, and although I thought I knew who was responsible, I wasn’t quite right, but heading in the right direction!
I didn’t know much at all about the Courtauld family, just that they produced sewing threads, so reading up about them after reading the book was interesting, and very informative - a fascinating family.
I wonder if Louise intends writing another book following on from this one about the couple, or has she got another philanthropist she is interested in following up and writing a story based around them, using the same style of fact interspersed with fiction?
I do hope something is in the pipeline.

ayse Thu 20-Jun-19 14:04:12

The book took time to get into as I find leaping backwards and forwards in time takes the pace away from the read. The second half of the book for me was far more engaging, laying bare two very distinct white communities and the black indigenous population who bore the brunt of racism and imperialism, partially mitigated by the action of the more liberal white population.

The descriptions of the renovation and later bombing of Eltham palace were riveting showing how ancient and modern can be married to produce sensational architecture.

The story is additionally a rags to riches tale although for me this took second place to the developing conflict that led to UDI in Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe).

I’d like to know why current authors write between periods rather than recount a story chronologically.

Gramcheeks Sat 22-Jun-19 20:52:23

I was pleasantly surprised by this book. The depth of knowledge of the author impressed me, as did her ability to explore complex relationships. The ordeals the black Africans had to endure was dealt with without over dramatising the situation, and this made it hard hitting. I thought the character of Ginie, the Dragon Lady, was a fascinating mix of a desire to be accepted and therefore conform, along with naivety of the times in which she was living. An easy read but not without depth. Overall an enjoyable book.

GranEd Mon 24-Jun-19 08:25:00

A beautifully written combination of fact and fiction.
I liked the short chapters which made it an easy read.
I wondered if the author has any connections to the Courtauld family as the finer details are impressive.
(I also loved the rich colours and design of the book cover)

reelashosser Mon 24-Jun-19 21:01:25

I am so disappointed to report that I did not enjoy the book, which is beautifully presented and very well written.

Unfortunately I really disliked the jumping from decade to decade and was grateful for the headings on alternate pages, as it was difficult to remember "who, when and where". I love history but like to feel confident of the facts. The author did say that she was responsible for the "skin and tissue" - unfortunately I felt that there was probably more skin and tissue than is actually documented. A question : is it documented that Ginie had an abortion in her youth? I would have thought that this would have been kept very much secret in those days, so is this another example of skin and tissue? I am afraid that I frequently found myself wondering how much to believe, rather than simply accepting it as fiction.

Itsmyfirstrodeo Wed 26-Jun-19 06:56:23

My first thought on receiving this book was, what a beauty, the attention to detail on the cover was quite something.
I did find it hard to immerse in the story to begin with, as with previous posters mentioning, the back and forth between the different time zones was confusing, and didn't flow in my mind.
I have never visited Africa and the picture it presented in the book didn't make me feel like I should rush there now.
I enjoyed the story for what it was, a fiction/non fiction, but as this is based on a true story, I'm not sure what this adds to the world now that it is written, and despite the various different timeline stories, I still didn't feel connected to Ginie.
My question is, how much of an embellishment was Jongy and did his sorry fate play out as in the book?

GeminiJen Thu 27-Jun-19 15:45:34

First, the cover: beautifully illustrated and just perfect for the story within.

As for the book itself, it belongs to a genre I would not normally have chosen. And, while I admired the author’s skilful interweaving of fact and fiction, I did frequently find myself wondering where the fact ended and the fiction began.

That said, the story is beautifully written. The author takes the documented facts of Virginia’s personal story – her first failed marriage, her determination to find another that can secure her a place in society, marriage to Stephen and the couple’s lives in England and Scotland, then their life of philanthropy and involvement in social and cultural change in 1950s Rhodesia – and builds around them a quite captivating narrative. We are given a real insight into Virginia’s character and personality: her flamboyance and confidence undermined by personal insecurity and vulnerability, her desperate and touching need for social acceptance. I didn’t actually warm to her until the point when she owned up to her deception, allowing Stephen in his turn to unburden himself to her. Up until then, I viewed her as a man’s woman, single minded and socially ambitious, morally flawed, someone who had lied in order to ensnare both of her husbands.

I found the structure of the book an interesting one: the first part is set in the 1950s, the second returns to Virginia’s life in the 1920s and earlier, the narrative then moves back to 1950s Rhodesia, the fourth part focussing on her life in England with Stephen, the longest, fifth, a more linear journey through the 50s to the story’s conclusion. Although not usually a fan of this current vogue of flipping to and fro in terms of time and place, I thought it worked well here, with no navigation issues. The element that didn’t work quite so well for me was Catherine’s story. This did provide an insight into the less glamorous aspects of expat life in Africa, the isolation, loneliness, boredom, packed away, moth eaten clothes; also an interesting take on a child’s perspective, and necessary to the story’s conclusion. For me though, her sections did at times disrupt the narrative flow.

It’s clear that the author undertook a great deal of research to bring to light the fascinating life of Virginia Courtauld. It was beautifully written and a pleasure to read. I should be interested in hearing from the author how she approaches the intermingling of fact and fiction: for instance, given that events are fairly recent, with characters in the novel still alive today.

Greciangirl Fri 28-Jun-19 10:13:29

Have just finished this book and found it fascinating.

The blending of history and fact was cleverly written.
Not a lot was mentioned about the actual Dragon tattoo.
But then I suppose this was the attraction and we were never meant to know why she had it, I think.

Funnily enough, while reading this book, I happened to watch an episode of the Antiques Roadshow on BBC 1.
It was filmed at Eltham Palace. Whilst watching, I imagined all the exciting people that had lived there and the history of it all.
A fascinating read.

angie95 Sat 29-Jun-19 20:56:52

What a beautiful cover, and the story was captivating, from the very first sentence, I was whisked away to Africa, with the wonderful style of writing the reader could taste and feel the heat, it was as if you were a guest watching from a small distance away, I absolutely loved it, It now resides on my shelf, ready to be 're read Thank you so much for the beautiful copy, x

ranorman45 Sun 30-Jun-19 20:47:20

Historical fiction is not something that I would usually choose but I must admit I quite enjoyed this book.The author brings lots of detail into the story in a natural and unpretentious way, you do not feel this information is just there to embellish the story.I loved reading about the Courtaulds family and what life could have been like in Africa at these times of great change,it was quite thought provoking for me.I wonder if the author or her family have ever experienced life as an expat or just where she went to for research in this subject.

aspella Sun 30-Jun-19 23:10:44

Thanks for my copy of the book. Unfortunately this book tried to be too many things and thus fell short on all of them. Due to the layout of the book I guessed within a few chapters who had fired the gun, alas I was correct and thus was left feeling disappointed at the end; therefore it didn't work as a crime/mystery.

I never really got into the story due to it constantly flickering between characters and time periods. There were far too many characters in the book and none of them were delved into enough and no historical event covered in any depth; things only seemed to be touched on. Instead of Catherine's thoughts I'd have liked to of heard from the servants especially Mary. I was sick of hearing about the tattoo and found it quite repetitive; Ginie meets a man, gets married, sets up house, gets pets and has dinner party.

The graphic nature of Jongy's death scene felt out of place and like it had been written by a different person; thus I wasn't surprised to read it had been inspired by another story.

Sadly the most interesting thing about this book was the cover image.

My question is why didn't you just stick to the facts and write a non-fiction book about Ginie?

Nanabanana1 Mon 01-Jul-19 15:36:50

What a lovely looking book, I really enjoyed the story and the obvious research that has been done by the author. Virginia Courtauld must have been a very fascinating and strong woman.
My question is has the author any plans for another book along these lines i.e a fiction/nonfiction about another not very well known but fascinating historical figure?
I very much hope so .

pamelaJEAN Mon 01-Jul-19 15:54:55

A beautifully written book, now halfway through, mixed thoughts, I like the short chapters give me time to take in each one. How long did it take the author to find out all the details .

grannyscott Mon 01-Jul-19 15:57:52

I didn’t expect to enjoy this book but I did. The research must have been very thorough as it took me straight to Rhodesia. What a woman! How do you go about such research particularly as it needs to be of the time?