“The Dragon Lady” by Louisa Treger

The book begins with a sort of flashback so expertly disguised that it is rather confusing. I believe it is the reason I couldn’t get into the story for about one-third of the book and couldn’t shake off the feeling of irritation until the end.

My subjective guess is that it’s the result of the author’s work with the editors whose primary task is to make a book as “smooth” as possible to avoid possible criticism of the story being “slow-paced” or having “weak opening pages”. Anyway, these endeavours worked the other way round for me causing confusion not immersion into the story of Ginie, Lady Virginia Courtland.

Set mainly in Rhodesia (modern Zimbabwe) in the 1950s, with glimpses at the main characters’ lives in different European countries before they came to Africa, “The Dragon Lady” by Louisa Treger follows the life of Lady Virginia Courtauld, or Ginie. After their efforts to get fully accepted into the stiff British high society, Ginie and her husband Stephen Courtauld decide to settle in Rhodesia, far away from the prejudices and restraints of the old aristocracy.

For a while, it seems that the Courtaulds managed to build their personal paradise under the piercing sun of Rhodesia. Alas, the political issues and the brewing unrest among the locals, as well as the unwillingness of the British citizens living in the country to accept the inevitable changes, bring trouble to the couple. Despite their generosity and eagerness to invest in a better future for the country they now call home, there are those who believe the Courtaulds don’t belong in Rhodesia.

The book was interesting to read. It has all the right ingredients to keep the reader turning the pages. The exotic setting expertly described, the complex characters whose true nature readers will try to guess until the end, twists and turns you might not see coming.

For me personally, Ginie’s character lacked depth. Or maybe, it’s clarity. On the one hand, she loved wealth and all the beautiful things it brought. She craved to be accepted into the high society of England. While on the other, she sympathised with the people of Rhodesia who suffered from inequality and segregation. It is perfectly understandable that these things can exist side by side in a person. It’s just for me, in the case with Ginie, for some reason, they didn’t stitch together.

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