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The Lady and the Unicorn (Chevalier, Tracy) [Hardcover]

Tracy Chevalier
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (64 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Jan 2004 Chevalier, Tracy

From the bestselling author of Girl with a Pearl Earring comes a historical tale of love, sex and revenge.

Jean le Viste, a newly-wealthy member of the French court, commissions a series of tapestries to hang in his chateau named ‘The Lady and the Unicorn.’ Nicolas, his chosen designer, is a talented artist. He is also dangerously attractive to the women around him including le Viste's wife, Genevieve, and his daughter, Claude. Nicolas is at once smitten with Claude but will her social standing prevent her from returning his advances?

As Nicolas begins to weave the tapestries so too do the lives and desires of the people around him intertwine. As people fall in love, are shunned, take revenge, find unrequited love, turn to the church or to pagan ideals, the tapestries become to each an ideal vision of life – yet all discover that they are unable to make this ideal world their own.

Set against the historical backdrop of medieval France, Chevalier weaves together an intricate tapestry of love, revenge & art in a novel which will appeal to fans of Sarah Dunant, Rachel Hore and Philippa Gregory.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Dutton Books; 1st Edition 1st Printing edition (Jan 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0525947671
  • ISBN-13: 978-0525947677
  • Product Dimensions: 20.6 x 15 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (64 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 505,749 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Tracy is the author of seven historical novels, including the international bestseller GIRL WITH A PEARL EARRING, which has sold over 4 million copies and been made into an Oscar-nominated film starring Scarlett Johansson and Colin Firth. American by birth, British by geography, she lives in London with her husband and son and cat. Her most recent novel, THE LAST RUNAWAY, is her first novel to be set in the United States, and she learned how to make quilts for it. Tracy is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, and has honorary doctorates from her alma maters Oberlin College and the University of East Anglia. Her website will tell you more about her and her books.

Product Description

Amazon Review

If you think you wouldn't raise your skirts for a rakish legend about the purifying powers of a unicorn's horn, then maybe you aren't a 15th-century serving girl under the sway of a velvet-tongued court painter of ill repute. In keeping with her bestselling Girl with a Pearl Earring, and its Edwardian-era follow-up, Falling Angels, Tracy Chevalier's tale of artistic creation and late-medieval amours, The Lady and the Unicorn is a subtle study in social power and the conflicts between love and duty. Nicolas des Innocents has been commissioned by the Parisian nobleman Jean Le Viste to design a series of large tapestries for his great hall (in real life, the famous Lady and the Unicorn cycle, now in Paris's Musee National du Moyen-Age Thermes de Cluny). While Nicolas is measuring the walls, he meets a beautiful girl who turns out to be Jean Le Viste's daughter. Their passion is impossible for their world--so forbidden, given their class differences, that its only avenue of expression turns out to be those magnificent tapestries. The historical evidence on which this story is based is slight enough to allow the full play of Chevalier's imagination in this cleverly woven tale. --Regina Marler, --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


‘Beautifully written, I could not put it down… a tale of ambition, lust, betrayal and heartbreak…a compelling and enormously enjoyable work' Evening Standard

‘On the academic front, here is the old Chevalier, exact and guarded, accurate and self-contained…On the erotic front, she positively explodes, the shy smiles of Pearl Earring replaced by a terrific torrent of carnal imagery, every sense invoked and appetite exploited’ Guardian

'Tracy Chevalier gives the kiss of life to the historical novel' Independent

‘With great insight, invention and a remarkable eye for detail, Chevalier breathes life into artists and artisans, their subjects and surroundings and, most important, their magnificent creations’ Washington Post

‘The story she weaves is as lush as the tapestries she describes, and her colorful characters leap off the page. A romantic, beautiful book’ Booklist

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
Tracy Chevalier is a brilliant storyteller. In The Lady and the Unicorn, just as in Girl with a Pearl Earing, she uses a real work of art as the basis for a fictional story. We are presented with the contrasting home life of a family of tapestry weavers (poor but cheerful and busy) and the Le Vistes in their castle (wealthy but depressed and tedious). You might think the plot sounds fairly twee and predictable, but in fact the story is absorbing. Nicolas is a rogue but I liked him anyway, if only for bringing excitement, repressed though it may be in some cases, into the lives of the women. The oppression of the richer women was striking.
Chevalier's powers of description are superb - she makes it possible for her reader to step back in time. Although the book is set in medieval times, the historical detail is not too overwhelming. The story unfolds at a gentle pace, making it a relaxing read.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Evocative narrative 26 Jun 2007
A wonderful book. Having only read 'The Virgin Blue' (which I adored) this was very different and will certainly have me racing out for her other books. Speaking of racing, this book will certaily do that to your heart rate! It's sauciness at it's best. Nicolas des Innocents is certainly not what his name suggests; he is a fifteenth century naughty boy! As a Parisian painter of portraits he is bewildered when he is asked to design some tapestries for Jean Le Viste (a nobleman close to the King).

One look at Le Viste's daughter Claude and he is in love, big style. They are almost caught in the act and because of this he (and she) are kept under close watch. He is dragged into the families unsettled relationships and lives. We then meet the actual weaver and his family during Nicolas' journeys to Brussells. He acts out his desires a few times more there with the resulting consequences not quite being what you expect. During the time it takes to make the tapestries we know a lot about all of the characters from themselves.

Wonderful prose, made all the better with each chapter being picked up by another character. A trait I don't always enjoy but it really worked in this novel. The description and feelings Chevalier evokes are a pleasure and this book should be a fabulous journey with a satisfying ending.

The tapestries described are gorgeous, made more so at the hands of Chevalier. It is a heady mix of art, history and fiction. Chevalier has made it as accurately possible with the facts available to her but admits that some parts have had to be changed in the interests of fiction namely because all of the details weren't available to her. I don't feel it matters as you still get the essence of how devine tapestries like this would be. It is testiment to her imagination that we get to see the story behind a set of them.
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43 of 48 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Effortless storytelling, thrilling read 23 Sep 2003
By A Customer
Looks like Tracy Chevalier's done it again.
This is the story of the Lady and the Unicorn tapestries in the Cluny museum in Paris. Like in Girl with a Pearl Earring, Chevalier has chosen a real work of art about which rather little is actually known, and woven a tale about what might have been the circumstances under which it was commissioned and created.
In Lady and the Unicorn, we enter into the world of 15th century Paris and Brussels but this is no boring history lesson. This story is full of jealousy and intrigue, passion and sex even. I'll certainly never look at blue tapestries in the same way - I could practically smell the reeking woad-dyer.
For me, this book is as successful as Girl With a Pearl Earring and more deftly told than Falling Angels. The voices are clearer and frankly, it's a happier read. I also found it more coherent than The Virgin Blue because it's all set in the same period and doesn't dot around between its historical setting and the modern day.
This really is a brilliant piece of writing. Recommended.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A reasonable read 23 Mar 2009
To be honest, not one of Tracy Chevalier's best but despite not being that keen tapestries, I was still expecting to be entertained. Unfortunately, that didn't happen. But I was educated. The book is packed with spot-on details of the period, the author's trademark. I was less enamoured with the character of the tapestries' designer. Not that he wasn't well written, he was, but it's my understanding that a book's 'baddie' should have some redeeming feature to ensure a touch of reader-sympathy in order to keep the reader reading. Well, I didn't stop reading but I disliked the antihero more and more as the tale progressed. No loveable rogue he! It is mainly because of this man's actions, and those of others in the artistic chain, which have such an effect on the lives of several young girls and one weaver's family.

The story of a nobleman's need for public acknowledgement leads to his commissioning several pieces of needlework detailing his status at court. It is the the hard, unfair lives of those appointed to carry out this indulgency which forms the basis of this book. Almost erotic in parts (a bit of a surprise that), its historical facts are as seamlessly presented as ever. (see above) And in this case, knowing that the tapestries in question are real does add an extra layer of interest and speculation. Fortunately, there's a reasonable conclusion - and that's not telling tales - but I so wanted to sort out that 'baddie' right from his first appearance that it coloured my perspective throughout.

I read this quickly because I semi disliked it, but as Tracy Chevalier is incapable of writing badly, I knew it would be a good story and ultimately, it was. Still is.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars good story, but the kindle book version contains lots of errors
A good story, well told, but detracted from by numerous errors in the kindle edition, even with newspaper reviews half way through the text!
Published 3 months ago by KRP
5.0 out of 5 stars Good value
Needed to buy this book to replace a previous copy. Pleased to find a copy at such a great price.
Published 4 months ago by dkayj
2.0 out of 5 stars Laboured
Set in 15th century France and Belgium, the story revolves around Nicolas, an artist, who is commissioned to paint a design for tapestries. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Hilary
3.0 out of 5 stars not the best by Tracy Chevalier
I bought this book as a holiday read and because I have a copy of the Lady and Unicorn Tapestery. I was disappointed with the novel, but it was in good condition and good value.
Published 10 months ago by Moo minmum
4.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful insight into the lives of the weavers and their families
I liked the way that Tracey Chevalier went into such detail about how tapestries were made and the impact this had on the lives of the weavers. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Elizabeth Boyle
4.0 out of 5 stars Historical fiction
I thought I'd read this having enjoyed 'Girl with a Pearl Earring'. There are quite a few similarities and this is a good read, even if not quite as famous as her other novel. Read more
Published 12 months ago by J. Benson
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointed
I really didn't like this book at all, it was lightweight and boring. Very disappointed because I loved Girl with a Pearl Earring. Read more
Published 13 months ago by JacquiB
5.0 out of 5 stars The lady and the unicorn
The lady and the unicorn
I really enjoyed reading this book on kindle. She is a great story teller and seems to evoke her period with a lot of lively characters.
Published 14 months ago by Barbara Atkin
3.0 out of 5 stars not a good tale
The story was very repetitive and began to get boring. The discripition of the weaving was good but that's all.
Published 15 months ago by Daphne Forward
5.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable
I enjoyed this book but didnt care much for the protagonist, the womanising and arrogant artist , Nicholas DE Innocents, but this is also about a noble Parisian family and a... Read more
Published 15 months ago by Gary Selikow
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