The Lady and the Unicorn Hardcover – 1 Sep 2003
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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
'Tracy Chevalier gives the kiss of life to the historical novel.' IndependentSee all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.
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.
As she did with The Girl With the Pearl Earring, (but even better this time since she has matured as a writer) the author takes a classic work of art and artfully spins a tale inspired by the original which becomes an original itself.
That the actual art work exists adds to the magic. The magic adds to the actual art work.
Tracy's imagination, her grasp of history, her attention to the senses, to details, to the soul of both artists artisans and lovers are all as lovely and artful as the tapestries,
Not a stich is missing, not a word is extraneous or misplaced. Bravo.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Like many readers of her books, I was first lured in by "The Girl with the Pearl Earring" which, along with many, I loved. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Cornwallgurl
This is the second novel I've read by Tracy Chevalier, the other being Girl with A Pearl Earring which I thoroughly enjoyed. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Book Club Reader
An amazingly evocative story. A great work of fiction, which, once you've read it, seems totally feasible . Read morePublished 2 months ago by Suzie Litton-Wood
A book which on many levels is informative. It is a good read and full of a society with so many double standards. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Caractacus
I've read all of Tracy Chevalier's books now and have enjoyed them all. An excellent story but didn't like the characters of Nicolas and Claude. Loved Alienor though.Published 5 months ago by Derythh
It was relatively good, not expecting what to find after just visiting the Musée Cluny in Paris.
It is a curious book and a rare subject