Elizabeth Berg has a new book coming out on April 14, 2015. (Trumpets are sounding, can you hear them?) The book is a work of historical fiction and is subtitled “A Novel of George Sand.
What I knew about George Sand could be held in a thimble. I knew that George Sand was a woman and that she went by George Sand so that her works would be published. I think that about sums it up. I did not realize that she was French or that she lived from 1804 – 1876.
The book starts in January of 1831 and has chapters that run until the end of Sand’s life. In January of 1831, Amantine-Lucile-Aurore Dupin is leaving her husband and children in the country and going to the city to be with her lover and to sell the book she has written. She is quite confident that it will be sold. Her first encounter with a publisher was not what she expected. She was humiliated. Her second encounter was more positive. She met with Henri Latouche, who published Le Figaro a daily paper. While he thought she showed promise, he felt she had a lot to learn but he would hire her to write play reviews. She would have to purchase her own tickets to see the plays. That was a problem because women had to purchase box seats and she could not afford those tickets. If, however, she dressed as a man, she could purchase much less expensive tickets to sit or stand to watch a play. She started dressing as a man to go to the plays. She found dressing as a man to be a freeing experience. In April of 1832, when she was going to have her first book published, she chose a man’s name because the book would be taken more seriously if it appeared to be written by a man. For several reasons, she chose George rather than the French Georges. “Sand” was the surname that she had used to publish some prior collaborative works so she continued to use that name.
The first chapters of the book tell not only the story of the current year but also reflect back on her life. We learn of the great but acrimonious love between her parents, her grandmother’s objections to her mother, the death of her brother, and the death of her father. All these things are a backdrop to how and why she is who she is. She had a stormy relationship with her mother who seemed to be unable to give George the love and stability that she needed.
George Sand had numerous lovers during her life. She tried to find love with each but came away disappointed each time. The book chronicles her life and loves and how each affected her work.
I don’t know if you know this but I really love reading Elizabeth Berg’s writing. (If you don’t already, you should follow her on Facebook.) When asked by a friend about this book, I was a bit stymied. She finally asked, “Would you recommend this book if it was not by Elizabeth Berg?” That gets me down to the crux of the matter. I knew so little about George Sand but by the end of the book, I was not sure that she was anyone that I wanted to know. Now, I don’t think that it was Ms Berg’s job to convince me that I wanted to read everything written by George Sand or that I even had to like her.
It was an intriguing story. I found that I often wanted to ask George Sand what the heck she was doing and why she was doing it. I found her irritating. She seemed to be the poster child for the song “Looking for Love in all the Wrong Places.” In the end, I would say that the book was well written and well organized but I was not happy with the subject.
So, can you recommend a book that you didn’t like the subject? I think the answer is “yes” as long as the person you are suggesting the book to knows the subject matter and is interested in that subject.
If you are a big fan of historical fiction or George Sand, I would love to hear your feelings about this book.
Thanks for reading!