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

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

thedreamloverThe Dream Lover encompasses some of the best qualities that historical fiction has to offer. It transports you to the 1800’s France. It introduces you to an extraordinary person: Aurore Dupin, pen name, George Sand. Then, the reader gets to sit back and enjoy the wild ride that was her life. Talk about escapism.

For a woman in the 1800’s, George Sand had it going on. She left her husband, had a series of lovers- both male and female- became a famous author, involved herself in the political upheavals of her time… it is truly an incredible life.

Not everyone in her life accepted her for who she was: “I feel I have made a mistake, George, and that I do not love you after all. … The only thing you are passionate about is locking yourself up at night and writing your precious fiction, ignoring all that is before you here, which, if you would pay attention to it, would make your stories infinitely richer!” … It was as if I had been shot in the chest.” pg 242. But she wrote and loved anyway. Well done, Aurore, well done.

She rejected the role that society set out for her. “Tell me, George. Do you wish you’d been born a man?” … “In my youth, I wished that. … But now I find I don’t wish to be either man or woman. I wish to be myself. Why should men serve as judge and jury, deciding for us what can and cannot be done, what is our due? Why should they decide in advance of our deciding for ourselves what is best for us; why should they decide what IS us?” “But then you do wish to be a man!” “Perhaps I wish to be a woman with a man’s privileges.” pg 151. Amen.

I loved the drama in this novel as well as the romance. One would think that the sheer quantity of lovers that she had would have nullified any quality in the feelings, but Berg does a good job proving that this was otherwise. The passion that she exhibits in one, Sand seems to have shown in them all.

My only complaint about The Dream Lover is that it felt rushed because of the almost unbelievable amount of important events that peppered Sand’s life. I would have savored a 1000+ page book like Margaret George’s treatment of Cleopatra in The Memoirs of Cleopatra, but The Dream Lover appeals to the more casual reader.

Still, it would have been awesome. A bookworm can dream, can’t she?

If you enjoy Margaret George, you may like this book too for its sumptuous descriptions and tempestuous relationships. Also, you may want to pick up In the Company of the Courtesan or Marrying Mozart. Both are excellent historical fiction novels with similar themes to The Dream Lover.

I received a free advance reader’s copy of this book through Goodreads First Reads. FTC guidelines: check!

Thanks for reading!

Sarah (The Canaan Trilogy #1) by Marek Halter

Sarah (The Canaan Trilogy #1) by Marek Halter

sarahA historical fiction about the early days of Abraham from Sarah’s (Sarai’s) point-of-view.

I think that this novel wasted an opportunity for a great story. Like a majority of women in the Bible, Sarai’s life was largely untold. So, Marek Halter had a blank slate to work with.

And what he wrote for Sarai was a life of waiting. Waiting for Abram to talk to his god. Waiting for Abram to come back from war. Waiting to become pregnant. Waiting and wandering, looking for a home.

If I had written this story, Sarai would have been so busy doing something spectacular that she would have hardly even noticed Abram’s absence or presence. Maybe she invented a new form of weaving. Maybe she started her own business selling those herbed loaves that she was so proud of. Or, to introduce a fantasy twist, maybe she was secretly a vampire hunter, like Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.

My point is: for a story about a woman, it was mostly about the men in her life. Which makes it not very different than the source material. And, in my mind, a disappointment.

Thanks for reading!

Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin

Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin

mistressoftheartA medieval mystery in which Simon of Naples, a eunuch and a unique woman with the ability to decipher the wounds inflicted on bodies, race to discover the identity of a violent killer of children before he strikes again.

From its opening lines, The Mistress of the Art of Death had me in its thrall. “Here they come. From down the road we can hear harnesses jingling and see dust rising into the warm spring sky. Pilgrims returning after Easter in Canterbury. Tokens of the mitered, martyred Saint Thomas are pinned to cloaks and hats- the Canterbury monks must be raking it in. They’re a pleasant interruption in the traffic of carts whose drivers and oxen are surly with fatigue from plowing and sowing. These people are well fed, noisy, exultant with the grace their journey has gained them. But one of them, as exuberant as the rest, is a murderer of children.” pg 1.

I have been to Canterbury and viewed the spot where Thomas Becket was cut down by the knights of Henry II. It is an amazing place. Even more so when you consider that it has been standing for so long. I loved going back there, if only in a story.

The Mistress of the Art of Death herself, Adelia, is a brilliant and headstrong heroine. She embodies what I imagine women to have been in the time before we were allowed the same privileges as men. “She sighed with impatience. “I see you are regretting that the woman, like the doctor, is unadorned. It always happens.” She glared at him. … “Turn over that stone”- she pointed to a flint nearby-“and you will find a charlatan who will dazzle you with the favorable conjunction of Mercury and Venus, flatter your future, and sell you colored water for a gold piece. I can’t be bothered with it. From me you get the actuality.” He was taken aback. Here was the confidence, even arrogance, of a skilled artisan.” pg 52.

The reality that Adelia has been taught to see is not pretty. She learns all about the horrors that mankind inflicts on one another through her schooling. It has hardened her, but she seeks, beyond all else, to give voice and justice to the murdered. “Man hovers between Paradise and the Pit… Sometimes rising to one, sometimes swooping to the other. To ignore his capacity for evil is as obtuse as blinding oneself to the heights to which he can soar.” pg 77.

And yet, Adelia is still sassy. I loved her attitude. “He found her modest- a description, Adelia had long decided, that was applied to women who gave men no trouble.” pg 88. Though this novel could have dragged the reader through the stultifying reality of medieval attitudes and prejudices, instead Ariana Franklin takes us on a sparkling adventure filled with just enough detail to give the flavor of the time.

Recommended for those who like mysteries, historical fiction, strong heroines and perhaps some romance on the side. The Mistress of the Art of Death, though it touches on dark themes, was a welcome respite for me from a world that so often shows its shadows. I hope that it is an escape for you too.

Thanks for reading!

Etiquette & Espionage (Finishing School #1) by Gail Carriger

Etiquette & Espionage (Finishing School #1) by Gail Carriger

etiquetteA cute, young adult book with a steampunk theme that takes place at a “finishing” school which isn’t about etiquette at all.

I made the mistake of reading this without realizing that it was based in a world from another series of books. I’m guessing that I would have enjoyed it more if I had read the other set first.

Etiquette and Espionage had plenty of fun moments in it. One of my favorites is when Sophronia inexplicably claims that werewolves enjoy the theater. From one of the other books? I’m assuming so. But it sounds legit.

I also loved when one of the students bemoans the fact that she doesn’t believe she’ll ever be able to kill anyone and the teacher comforts her with the fact that she may never have to. What a relief.

But funny moments do not a story make. The plot centers around Sophronia’s introduction to a world filled with spies that she didn’t know existed, the concealment of a highly desirable piece of equipment that has something to do with wireless technology, and, of course, fashion.

It is funny, frivolous and frothy. I found that I wanted more substance. Recommended for a light summer read around the pool and, perhaps, you may want to read The Parasol Protectorate series first, starting with Soulless.

Thanks for reading!

The Shadow of the Wind (The Cemetery of Forgotten Books, #1) by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

The Shadow of the Wind (The Cemetery of Forgotten Books, #1)  by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

shadowofthewindI’m incredibly embarrassed that I didn’t enjoy The Shadow of the Wind. So many of my Goodreads friends gave this five stars, I feel like I’m missing something. Perhaps my taste in books is all in my head. 🙂

I thought this was going to be a fantastical story about protecting books and defeating an evil that was trying to destroy them- sort of a magic librarian/coming-of-age/historical fiction adventure. It was not that.

It is more about the character descriptions and the scene descriptions and… well… descriptions. Not much happens. If I had to meet one more character and absorb one more backstory, I was going to freak out.

The Shadow of the Wind has been called “gothic” and “lyrical” and “beautiful.” I can think of a few different descriptions, but the most pertinent one would be: “not-for-Heidi.”

I just couldn’t get into this book. My apologies to its fans. If we all enjoyed the same things, what a boring world this would be.

Thanks for reading!