April 25, 2015

The Dream Lover

Our library {though I guess most would} adds books to their online catalog, and let us reserve them, months before they're published, so by the time a book arrives I've sometimes, even often, forgotten why I wanted to read it.  It was a nice surprise, then :) to remember that this one is historical fiction about George Sand. (Also, I've read Elizabeth Berg's fiction before, though not recently, and remember liking it, so that would have been part of it.}

What I know about George Sand comes mostly from Impromptu, and a visit to the Musée de la Vie Romantique in Paris {in a neighboring house where she attended salons}, and reading about motor trips Edith and Henry {we call them Edith and Henry} took to Nohant, her house in the country. The Dream Lover, told in the first person  by Sand,  reads almost like a memoir, describing her childhood, her volatile relationships with her grandmother, her mother and her daughter, her unhappy marriage and her unusual separation from her husband, her life in Nohant and in Paris, her writing, her passionate but not very lasting relationships with men and women, and her search, always, for love {or, really a lover who does not seem to exist}.  As the book begins, the chapters alternate between her adulthood and her childhood, until they converge, I thought that was unusual and creative.}

This is the kind of historical fiction that works for me, filled with lush descriptions of rooms, and houses, and clothes, that drew me into the settings and the scenes that Berg was depicting. I liked what she said in her afterword about writing this book:

      When I began doing research for this book, I was struck by the number of inconsistencies I found about the life of George Sand, ... Amid the many biographies I read I found disagreements about the date of her birth, when events occurred, how and why and when — and even if — she said or did or felt certain things, and when and where her books were written. ... Even things in her autobiography are suspect:  about certain facts she presented in Histoire de Ma Vie (Story of My Life) regarding her grandmother's first marriage, one biographer wrote that there was not a word of truth in it.
      Such discrepancies are the bane of the nonfiction writer and bliss for the novelist; they left me free to pick and choose among the delicious 'facts' of Sand's life in order to imagine a story...
I enjoyed reading this book very much. The thing that I would say made me enjoy the book more at the beginning, and found a little wearing at the end, was that we see everything, and everyone else, through George Sand's eyes and in her imagined voice.  As she's painted here, she is unconventional, and yearning, and unrequited, and dramatic, and the center of her universe, and in the end, a little hard to take. {Especially at the end, the very end.}

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