Francis King

Madness and death in Korea

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The Red Queen

Margaret Drabble

Viking, pp. 357, £

This diptych of a novel starts with a surprise. Margaret Drabble’s fame rests largely on fiction dealing with social issues in contemporary Britain. But here she has taken real-life intrigue, madness and murder in 18th- century Korea as the subject for the first half of her book. Her inspiration, Drabble tells us, came from a reading of the memoirs of the Lady Hyegy