The Dragon Lady
By Louisa Treger
Published by Bloomsbury
What it’s about?
Opening with the shooting of Lady Virginia ‘Ginie’ 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, and from the secluded Scottish Highlands to segregated Rhodesia in the fifties, the narrative spans enormous cultural and social change. Lady Virginia Courtauld was a boundary-breaking, colourful and unconventional person 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. Many people had reason to dislike Ginie, but who had reason enough to pull the trigger?
Deeply evocative of time and place, The Dragon Lady subtly blends fact and fiction to paint the portrait of an extraordinary woman in an era of great social and cultural change.
What I think:
After “chatting” to the author, Louisa Treger on Twitter, she was kind enough to send me a copy of her book. I didn’t really know anything about Virginia Courtauld so was really interested in reading the book. And it did not disappoint.
Treger recreates the worlds of Virginia lives in and creates for herself in exquisite detail. Virginia is alive and rebellious. She attracts people and repells them in equal measure.
Despite her wealth and beauty, Virginia is too different and too eccentric to be accepted by society. Her infamous dragon tattoo and reputation precede her. And Virginia spends her whole life trying to find the people that accept her for who she is.
Her second husband, Stephen, is that person. And Treger portrays a couple who are in love and supportive of each others passions and demons. Stephen’s immense wealth allows the build beautiful homes around the world, particularly restoring Eltham Palace in London and La Rochelle in Rhodesia.
What is most striking about the lives of the Courtaulds is their political ideologies and philanthropy that often puts them at odds with other people. In Rhodesia, the colonialism, violence and racism of the 1950s is shocking, but Virginia and her husband stand against the oppression, often putting themselves at risk in the process.
Virginia is fascinating and complex; her wealth and privilege do not always bring her the happiness and fulfillment she craves. This novel gives a taster of her rich and varied life – I definitely want to read more. And as soon as lock down is over I am definitely planning a visit to Eltham Palace.
Thank you to the writer, Louisa Treger, for gifting me a copy of The Dragon Lady. It’s a fascinating story that fans of historical fiction and fictional biographies will thoroughly enjoy.
Order a copy of The Dragon Lady from:
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Amazon.co.uk: click here