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The Dragon Lady

4.05  ·  Rating details ·  186 ratings  ·  72 reviews
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 Rh ...more
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published August 13th 2019 by Bloomsbury Caravel
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Average rating 4.05  · 
Rating details
 ·  186 ratings  ·  72 reviews

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Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader
Aug 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Historical fiction fans, you are going to want to have this book on your radar. Fans of beautiful storytelling, you’ll be captivated too. ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

The Dragon Lady is the story of Lady Virginia, Ginie, Courtauld, and the beginning opens when she’s been shot in her garden in 1950s Rhodesia. Ginie IS the dragon lady, so called because of the tattoo she has on her leg.

The book takes place in multiple glamorous settings and across time and events, including the Italian Rivera, the Scottish Hi
Suzanne Leopold (Suzy Approved Book Reviews)
In her lush Rhodesian garden in the 1950s, Lady Virginia Courtauld was mysteriously shot. This begins a tale of intrigue, romance, and history centered around this event. Ginie Courtauld had been an outcast many times in her life, but someone has escalated actions beyond ostracizing into a more dangerous realm.

Ginie’s life has taken her from the Italian Riviera to the reconstruction of Eltham Palace until her family and history as a foreign divorcée leaves her longing for a new start. Stephen a
Cindy Burnett
Jul 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The Courtauld Gallery in London is my favorite art museum so when I read the summary of THE DRAGON LADY and realized that it was about Virginia Courtauld, I started it immediately. The book centers around “Ginie” Courtauld, her husband Stephen, and their time in Rhodesia before the colony succeeded with its independence quest and became Zimbabwe. Ginie was an independent, free-thinking woman who opted to push for the necessary social changes she knew should happen even when those views made her ...more
Whispering Stories
Feb 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
Book Reviewed on

Until I was partway through this book I never realised that it was based on real-life people. Lady Virginia Courtauld (Ginie) and her husband Stephan. Yes, you can probably see from the last line of the synopsis where is states ‘blends fact and fiction to paint the portrait of an extraordinary woman’ but I’ll be honest, I didn’t actually read that last bit. Note to self, read the whole synopsis in future.

Even once I had realised it was based on real peop
Essie Fox
Jan 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The Dragon Lady by Louisa Treger is the fictionalised history of the extraordinary life of Lady Virginia (Ginie) Courtauld over the course of thirty years, from the 1920’s until the 1950’s. During this time, along with her beloved second husband Stephen, Ginie was a great supporter of the arts, and also a philanthropist who believed in equality for her fellow men, whatever the colour of their skins.

Treger skilfully weaves a tantalising mystery around some fascinating real-life events, with the s
Jun 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Novel set mainly in RHODESIA


This is the story of Stephen and Ginie Courtauld and is a mix of fiction and fact. The surname may be familiar as Stephen’s older brother Sam was one of the founders in 1932 of the Courtauld Institute of Art in London, housing a collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art (and, renowned for their course on art conservation).

As a couple in the 1930s, Stephen and Ginie renovated Eltham Palace with great panache and innovation – a blend of modern and old a
Gill Paul
Dec 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
There is so much to love about this book, it’s hard to know where to start. The backbone is the extraordinary character of Lady Virginia Courtauld, known to all as Ginie, a woman who keeps a pet lemur and has a snake tattoo twisting up one leg. Louisa Treger has stuck to the historical facts in describing her remarkable life, but fleshed out the woman so vividly that you feel as if you inhabit her skin. She was a perpetual outsider, with a difficult family background, scorned by English society ...more
Louise Beech
Jan 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
'I've spent a lifetime trying to forget, yet the smallest thing takes me back to the time the Dragon Lady was shot.'

What a journey this book was! I read it on my dull bus journey to work and back, and it took me all over the world. I lived, breathed and felt Rhodesia most of all, a place I've never been but now feel I have.

Lady Virginia Courtauld lived an extraordinary life, and Louisa Treger brought this life passionately to life, cleverly blending fact and fiction, history and imagaintion, as
Roman Clodia
Jun 03, 2019 rated it it was ok
I do wish bubble-bath books stayed away from 'big' topics like 1950s Rhodesia and apartheid-in-all-but-name if all they can do is wring their hands and whimper about why can't people just get on nicely...

Watch out for clichés too: 'he wasn't classically handsome', 'it seemed as if she and Stephen were the only people in the room', 'brown eyes a man could drown in' - yikes!
Penny (Literary Hoarders)
May 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley, own-it
Really excellent read! A complex character study focused on Virginia (Ginie) Courtauld, and sometimes told by a young girl named Catherine. There is an element of mystery to it, in the overall story, but also as to why Ginie has a tattoo of a snake running up her leg. This tattoo is why she was called the Dragon Lady.

Claire Douglas
Feb 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is a wonderful book! The writing is so rich and descriptive I felt totally immersed in this novel and in Rhodesia. Louisa Treger cleverly blends fact and fiction to tell us Lady Virginia Courtauld's story. She is a fascinating character, forced to leave society for being a foreign divorcee and trying to make a new life for herself in Rhodesia. I knew nothing about Virginia Courtauld before reading The Dragon Lady but the history, and what she achieved is amazing. I felt the author really br ...more
Karen Mace
Jun 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A sumptuous and scintillating story that has a wonderful mix of fiction and fact and allows you as a reader to get a fascinating glimpse at the lives of some extraordinary characters set over a number of years.

The Courtaulds did some amazing things in their lifetime so it was so interesting to get this part of their lives looked at more closely, especially the time they spent in Rhodesia and to see the turmoil that was around then - both socially and personally for them to deal with, just becaus
Jun 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle
You might not yet have discovered this book, but you’ll certainly notice it on the table at your local bookshop – that cover is just wonderful, rich and sumptuous, and quite perfect for the story that nestles between its covers. I’ll admit that Lady Virginia “Ginie” Courtauld wasn’t a familiar name to me – although the surname was – and on-line information is a little sketchy but immensely intriguing (like me, you might be interested in the rather spare factual detail on Wikipedia, under the ent ...more
Mary Yarde
Jan 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing

“I’ve spent a lifetime trying to forget, yet the smallest things take me back to the time the Dragon Lady was shot…”

Rebellious, 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 do
Vicki Antipodean Bookclub
Jun 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
The Dragon Lady is a fictionalised account of the life of Virginia Peirano who later became Lady Virginia (Ginie) Courtauld. Ginie was born in 1895, the daughter of a Romanian shipping merchant. As a teenager, she had a snake tattooed on her leg from ankle to thigh, the inspiration for the book's title. Having had a disastrous marriage to an Italian Count annulled by the Vatican, Ginie met Stephen Courtauld and married him in 1923. During their time in London, Stephen and Ginie renovated Eltham ...more
Kerrin Parris
Apr 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A very special thank you to Bloomsbury and Netgalley for allowing me to read this book in exchange for an honest review. #TheDragonLady #NetGalley

The Dragon Lady is a fictionalized biography that explores the life of Lady Virginia (Ginie) Courtauld and her second husband, Sir Stephen Courtauld with emphasis on their time in Rhodesia in the 1950’s. It also gives the first person view of Catherine, who in the first chapter of the book reflects back to the time when she witnessed Ginie, a/k/aThe Dr
Martine Bailey
Reading Louisa Treger’s remarkable The Dragon Lady I could almost feel the breeze on the veranda and hear the clink of glasses and chatter of insects in Ginnie’s exotic Rhodesian garden. The novel is a tale of colonial life in what was once Rhodesia, and the author tells it with ravishing bravura. It is the 1950s when Ginie and her husband Stephen set up their estate in Africa and strive to improve conditions for the local people, thereby earning the scorn of the white population. On one level i ...more
Bebe (Sarah) Brechner
Apr 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Readers will enjoy this stimulating novel based on a real life couple, the fabulously wealthy and mysterious Courtaulds, who defied the well entrenched social norms of British colonialism in South Africa Rhodesia during the 1950s and 1960s. The author has developed a sensitive background and story on what motivated this couple, particularly Virginia, to step out and confront the standard and rampant prejudice of those times. Recommended for public library collections and book clubs.
Tessa Arlen
Jun 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Five stars for this superbly wrought story of love, strife and forgiveness.
The love story of Sir Stephen Courtauld and the vivacious, beautiful and recently divorced Virginia, ‘Ginie’, emerges through their early married life during WWII in the seclusion of rural Scotland and at their magnificent country house Eltham Palace in a Britain that still shunned divorce. Seeking to escape the judgmental confines of post-war Britain, Stephan and Ginie move to what they hope is the freedom of Zimbabwe, t
Joan Happel
Aug 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
This nonlinear historical fiction novel tells the fascinating story of Lady Virginia “Ginie” Courtland; an extraordinary woman whose life took her from Italy, art deco inspired Eltham Palace in the 1930's to 1950's Rhodesia. Ginie’s colorful, boundary-breaking life is told with lyrical prose and an evocative sense of time and place.

Ginie and her second husband Sir Stephan move to Africa after finding that Ginie’s divorcee status will not allow her to be accepted into the titled society of 1920’
Jan 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A haunting, evocative novel that explores what it is to be an outsider with its portrayal of a truly remarkable woman. Louisa Treger vividly brings to life both the historical characters of Virginia (Ginie) and Stephen Courtauld, and life in 1950s Rhodesia, in a deeply moving blend of fact and fiction that is intimately personal while painting a broader picture of a divided society.

The novel begins with the shooting of Ginie Courtauld, known as the Dragon Lady because of her mysterious tattoo.
Karen KK
I received this from for a review.

This is a fictional account of Sir Stephen and Lady Virginia 'Ginie' Courtauld and their philanthropic life in Rhodesia.

Good story, interesting and nicely written.

Emma Curtis
Jan 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I was delighted to receive an advance copy of Louisa Treger's new novel from Bloombury, having loved The Lodger. The Dragon Lady is a gorgeous book, a beautifully written meld of fact and fiction. Louisa Treger gets right into the heart of Rhodesian ex-pat society, with it's petty snobbery, racism and casual cruelty. Ginnie and Simon Courtauld try their best to do right by the indigenous population and to find meaning in their own lives, but are thwarted by their white neighbours who resent the ...more
H.A. Callum
Sep 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The Dragon Lady is an impressive piece of historical fiction, winding us through the amazing and ahead-of-the-time life and perspectives of Virginia Courtauld. Louisa Treger has melded fact with fiction impeccably, and the language, detail, and mood of this book make it a perfect companion to the story of Virginia Courtauld. The Dragon Lady is a reminder of how the past ghosts the present, and is a testament that fiction done well can make history relevant and alive for modern readers. A superb ...more
Jun 17, 2019 rated it liked it
Thank you to the publisher for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

I think The Dragon Lady is one of those novels which tries to be too many different things at once, and therefore ends up not exploring each of its themes to their full potential. Telling the life story of liberal activist Lady Virginia Courtauld, this book attempted to be a biography, crime novel and romance all at once – and sadly, this combination didn’t quite work for me.

Before picking up th
Ginger Pollard
Aug 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Wow! What a fabulous book! It's based on true events, but the author has made a great story! Takes place in South Africa which makes it wild and mysterious for anyone who has never visited. This book truly takes the reader on a trip to South Africa! Writing is amazing, story is incredible and the author paints a beautiful picture of this beautiful land! Something for everyone in this book! Enjoyed it so much! Impossible to put down, so I read it in one night. Don't miss it! One of the best books ...more
Feb 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is the story of the beautiful, exotic, socialite Lady Virginia 'Ginie' Courtauld - nicknamed The Dragon Lady for the unusual tattoo of a snake decorating the length of her leg.

We follow Ginie from her youth on the Italian Riviera before World War I, to England and the stylish Art Deco Eltham Palace, to the wilds of Scotland, and finally to her shooting at La Rochelle in Rhodesia of the 1950s - through two marriages, her many homes and the enormous social changes that took place during her u
Jul 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
I was ready for a good chunk of a novel - not genre, not froth, not gimmick, not avant garde.  And by chunk, I’m not talking about heft, but rather, density, depth, a novel that you unpack as you read.  A novel that ends before you want it to.  Are you with me?  I just wanted a dadblamed book!

So… know that first line thing, lines that get the job done?  Well, here’s one.  “I’ve spent a lifetime trying to forget, yet the smallest thing takes me back to the time the Dragon Lady was shot.”  Le
Linda Hill
Jul 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Exotic Ginie Courtauld is the Dragon Lady.

I absolutely loved Louisa Treger’s The Dragon Lady with its sweeping narrative blending fact and fiction in a beautifully written story of love and life. Alongside this historical and socio-political tale is an absorbing mystery too so that The Dragon Lady defies a genre label, but rather weaves a spell of enchantment around all readers.

The Rhodesian setting is masterfully conveyed. The colours, aromas, flora and fauna truly transport the reader evocativ
Sophie M
Mar 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review as part of a book blog tour for Love Books Tours. Thank you to Love Books Tours and Louisa Treger for the opportunity to read this incredible book!

TW: racism, abortion, graphic injuries, depression

Before I say anything else, I just need to say how obsessed I am with this cover! It is so gorgeous and an absolute pleasure to be able to take pictures with it. It has definitely added to the beauty of my bookshelf!

This story was intrigu
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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 teacher.

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.

Married wit

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