Publisher: Random House
Publication Date: 4/14/2015
My Rating: 5 Stars
New York Times bestselling author Elizabeth Berg has written a lush historical novel based on the sensuous Parisian life of the nineteenth-century writer George Sand—which is perfect for readers of Nancy Horan and Elizabeth Gilbert.
At the beginning of this powerful novel, we meet Aurore Dupin as she is leaving her estranged husband, a loveless marriage, and her family’s estate in the French countryside to start a new life in Paris. There, she gives herself a new name—George Sand—and pursues her dream of becoming a writer, embracing an unconventional and even scandalous lifestyle.
Paris in the nineteenth-century comes vividly alive, illuminated by the story of the loves, passions, and fierce struggles of a woman who defied the confines of society. Sand’s many lovers and friends include Frédéric Chopin, Gustave Flaubert, Franz Liszt, Eugène Delacroix, Victor Hugo, Marie Dorval, and Alfred de Musset. As Sand welcomes fame and friendship, she fights to overcome heartbreak and prejudice, failure and loss. Though considered the most gifted genius of her time, she works to reconcile the pain of her childhood, of disturbing relationships with her mother and daughter, and of her intimacies with women and men. Will the life she longs for always be just out of reach—a dream?
Brilliantly written in luminous prose, and with remarkable insights into the heart and mind of a literary force, The Dream Lover tells the unforgettable story of a courageous, irresistible woman.
A special thank you to Random House and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review. THE DREAM LOVER by talented, Elizabeth Berg, a beautifully written, fascinating historical fiction of Amantine-Lucile-Aurore Dupin, best known by her pseudonym George Sand, a 19th century French novelist and memoirist; rich in character, culture, and history. Berg writes with enlightening, bold, and inspiring prose, with insights into the unconventional life of one of the most famous female and gifted writers of her time. George Sand was known for her scandalous, and sometimes shocking behavior; her famous lovers, eccentricities, and her questionable Parisian lifestyle— including publicized romantic affairs with a number of artists, including the composer and pianist Frédéric Chopin and the writer Alfred de Musset, Gustave Flaubert, Franz Liszt, Eugene Delacroix, Victor Hugo, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and more. Born in Paris, France in 1804, known as "Aurore" she was pretty much raised by her grandmother in a liberal setting, at her estate Nohant, in the French province of Berry, later using this setting in her novels. In 1822, at the age of eighteen, Sand married Casimir Dudevant "François" and they had two children. In early 1831, she left her husband and entered upon a four- or five-year period of rebellion and a few years later, was legally separated taking her children with her. During this time, her life was quite scandalous with many affairs. Typical for this era, it was not socially acceptable to be intelligent and independent. These and other behaviors were exceptional for a woman of the early and mid-19th century, when social codes—especially in the upper classes—were of the utmost importance. Sand's reputation came into question when she began sporting men's clothing in public, which she justified enabling her to circulate more freely in Paris than most of her female contemporaries, and gave her increased access to venues from which women were often barred, even women of her social standing. A woman of many talents, and often misunderstood, Sand authored literary criticism and political texts, wrote many essays and published works establishing her socialist position, and often sided with the poor and working class. Berg eloquently, introduces us to many historical figures and brings life, intrigue, adventure, romance, scandal, and sensuality to the characters, settings, and intimate thoughts, as the vibrant pages comes alive, transporting you to another time. I enjoyed the way she outlined the years of her life and geographical locations, in order to capture the moment with an easy flow. A liaison with the writer Jules Sandeau heralded her literary debut and later in Paris when she was twenty-eight, a time of unhappiness and frustration in her life. Julies and she were finished, however she had her work and novel, Lelia to sustain her and the friendship with Marie Dorval, her truest confidante.
I enjoyed this part with Marie:
“Ah, George. A woman who denies love. It is you whom you write about. It is you, a powerful woman powerless to get what you need most. You seem to have no idea how to achieve it. And yet you have one of your own characters say of Lelia that she is not a complete human being. You have him say that where love is absent, there can be no woman. This is you speaking of yourself.
A painful and fatal flow in herself, as she could not explain her passion, how it sputtered and stalled." “When I was thirty years old and felt old as time. I had failed in every love relationship I had attempted: with my mother, with God, with marriage, with Aurelien, with lovers, with my children. And with Marie, whose light still shone brightest for me, who still seemed the one with whom I might have been enduringly happy. These days, I enjoyed her company in friendship and no longer aspired to anything beyond it; I would have embarrassed myself in attempting it, and I had no doubt that any attempt at rekindling romantic love would have turned her away from me entirely. She had finished with that the day she’d left Nohant, and I knew perhaps better than anyone that it was always easy for Marie to leave behind what no longer engaged or amused her”.
“Marie was gone. Musset was gone. I wanted Pagello gone. One is not living when one does not use the parts of oneself that are most vital, most especially the need to love and loved. In that respect, I was already dead.”
THE DREAM LOVER is enticing and engaging; flashing back and forth from George Sand’s earlier, middle and latter parts of her life— told in first person narrative, pulling you into the struggles, heartbreaks, frustrations, passionate letters, and explorations of Sand’s desires, intelligence, creativity, and talents. George Sand was known well in far reaches of the world, and her social practices, her writings and her beliefs prompted much commentary, often by other luminaries in the world of arts and letters. She would love Berg’s account and somehow see her smiling. My first book by Berg, highly impressive writing, detailed research; a stunning novel written with compassion and intimacy and one to savor. A sucker for good books about books or literary icons. Highly recommend THE DREAM LOVER to all historical and literary fiction fans, and look forward to reading more from Berg! “The finest female genius of any country or age”. –Elizabeth Barrett Browning
About the Author
Elizabeth Berg is the New York Times bestselling author of many novels, including We Are All Welcome Here,The Year of Pleasures, The Art of Mending, Say When, True to Form, Never Change, and Open House, which was an Oprah’s Book Club selection in 2000. Durable Goods and Joy School were selected as ALA Best Books of the Year, and Talk Before Sleep was short-listed for the ABBY Award in 1996. The winner of the 1997 New England Booksellers Award for her body of work, Elizabeth Berg is also the author of a nonfiction work,Escaping into the Open: The Art of Writing True. She lives in Chicago.
Before I became a writer, I was a registered nurse for ten years, and that was my “school” for writing—taking care of patients taught me a lot about human nature, about hope and fear and love and loss and regret and triumph and especially about relationships--all things that I tend to focus on in my work. I worked as a waitress, which is also good training for a writer, and I sang in a rock band which was not good for anything except the money I made. I was a dramatic and dreamy child, given to living more inside my head than outside, something that persists up to today and makes me a terrible dining partner. I was married for over twenty years and am now divorced. I have two daughters and three grandchildren. I live with my excellent dogs, Homer Omar Fullofit, Gabigail Starletta Buttons, and my cat, Gracie Louise Pawplay, in Chicago. The animals would like you to know they did not get to vote on their names. Or on the food they eat. Website