Saturday, April 11, 2015

The Dream Lover: A Novel of George SandThe Dream Lover: A Novel of George Sand by Elizabeth Berg

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Short take for buyers: if you already enjoy historical fiction, it’s worth a shot. If you don’t, this book may not convert you—unless you download the book club kit, which is extraordinarily wonderful and will give context to those who missed out on reading French literature.

The delightful ambiguity of the title—Aurore Dupin/George Sand looking for the lover of her dreams, and as an artist and intellectual, loving dreams of love and freedom—becomes ambivalence.

Extensive research, exquisite description, some glorious chunks of prose are the reasons to read the book. It’s more like a novel of the nineteenth century than the twenty-first: a fictionalized autobiography, with plenty of room for philosophizing and reflection, less concentration on plot. The duality extends to the structure. The book bounces between Sand’s childhood and her present-in-the-book, except that “present” time stretches from her twenties to her death at 72. For me, that imbalanced structure and the first person viewpoint actually distanced me from the character instead of drawing me in. 

Berg's work in general is an exploration of the many forms of love, and this novel does fit into Berg's overall oeuvre in that sense. I think she does justice to Sand's life, and there are moments when Sand's character comes to life—moments that shine like scattered gems. Because of its difficulty and its beauty, you can see why ratings range from 2 to 4. I’m right there in the middle, with a 3, and an extra half-star for the online reading guide.

I recived an EARC for review from the publisher and Netgalley.

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