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The Lady and the Unicorn Hardcover – 1 Sep 2003


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins; First Edition edition (1 Sept. 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007140908
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007140909
  • Product Dimensions: 21.4 x 13.8 x 3.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (75 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,254,576 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 www.tchevalier.com 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, Amazon.com

Review

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


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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 24 people found the following review helpful By I like books on 11 Aug. 2005
Format: Hardcover
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 By SJSmith TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 26 Jun. 2007
Format: Paperback
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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By lily mandolin on 23 Mar. 2009
Format: Paperback
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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Donald Mitchell HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 4 Sept. 2004
Format: Paperback
The Lady and the Unicorn reminded me of the bawdy stories in the Decameron and the Canterbury Tales translated into a novel about the creation of the Lady and the Unicorn tapestries. With each chapter the narrator shifts so you get a better sense of each character's personality and history.
The book has two remarkable strengths that were not sustained throughout. First, the book opens with constant surprises. Each chapter quickly takes you off in a new direction that makes the book's development a delight. Second, you receive a nice briefing on how tapestries were conceived, commissioned, designed and executed. If the book had continued its focus on these elements, this would have been a remarkably good book. But, alas, the story bogged down into too much detail about the fictional lives of the tapestry makers and the commissioner's family. Those shifts turned an intriguing book into a soap-opera like story line. Ultimately, the book resolves its tensions in ways that few will find pleasing or very interesting. So you go from a five star opening to about a two star ending. But the beginning is so brilliant that you should read the book. For happiest reading, you can stop after page 126.
Every good novel has at least one arresting character. In The Lady and the Unicorn that character is Alienor de la Chapelle. I won't say more because you should read about her to form your own opinions. But do be on the lookout when she appears in the book.
Nicolas des Innocents, the artist, on the other hand is a pig. I would have enjoyed the story more if he had been a spiritually uplifted character rather than a roué.
Find beauty all around you!
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