Drabble writes the story of the Crown Prince of Korea and his Red Queen. The book is split into two: the princess' story and a modern day parallel. The princess married the crown prince while she was still a girl and had many pressures put on her shoulder as a kid. She also had to deal with the strained relationship between her husband and father in law, which eventually led to her husband going crazy.
This section of the story was interesting but I felt that the princess was detached, which made me detached. I also felt that Drabble spent too much time at the beginning telling the reader where the story would lead. A hint here and there is usual but she was telling the reader that the crown prince would go crazy every page.
The second half of the book followed Dr. Babs Halliwell who had lost a son and her husband had also gone crazy. She flies out to Seoul for a conference and reads the princess' diary on her flight over. She feels a connection with the princess instantly, but this is where I lose touch with what Bab's story has anything to do with the princess. She starts an affair with a prominent academic and makes friends with a doctor that specializes in strokes.
Then Drabble makes the mistake of trying to write herself into the story. It seems more like an afterthought and doesn't fit in to the story.
The first half of the book was interesting, but it could have ended there and been more satisfactory.
First Line: "When I was a little child, I pined for a red silk skirt."