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The Lady and the Unicorn Paperback – 14 Aug 2014
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‘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 is the wonderful novel from the much-loved author of "Girl with a Pearl Earring" and "Falling Angels". "The Lady and the Unicorn" tapestries are a set of six medieval tapestries. Beautiful, intricate and expertly made, they are also mysterious in their origin and meaning. Tapestries give an appearance of order and continuity, as if designed and made by one person, belying the complicated process required to create them. Weavers, patrons, designers, artists, merchants and apprentices were involved in their making, and behind them were the wives, daughters and servants who exercised influences over their men. Like the many strands of wool and silk woven together into one cloth, so these people came together in a complex dance to create the whole picture. Jean le Viste, a newly wealthy member of the French court, commissions the tapestries to hang in his chateau. Nicolas, his chosen designer, meets le Viste's wife Genevieve and his daughter Claude, both of whom take a keen interest in the tapestries. From Paris, Nicolas moves to a weaver's workshop in Brussels in order to complete the commission.The creation of the tapestries brings together people who would not otherwise meet - their lives become entangled, and so do their desires. As they 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. See all Product description
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For some reason I didn't keep up with her output until reading the review of "The Last Runaway" which I downloaded for a holiday read and enjoyed, but again found slightly unsatisfying - mastermind subject in this case quilting. Bit of a pause and I then saw the review for her latest book and downloaded it and also - at last ! The Lady and the Unicorn. In the meantime, for no discernible reason I'd read her book on Mary Anning "Remarkable Creatures" which I thought was truly excellent. It was also a bit longer than some and thus, somehow, more satisfying. Anyway, back to the book in question. "The Lady and the Unicorn". This reverts to the original formula of "The Girl with the Pearl Earring". Take a very, very well known work of art, research how it was created, and invent a fictional cast of characters around it. So far, so good. I did enjoy it, partly because I had an immediate mental image of those marvellous tapestries, and tapestry, along with mosaic, fascinates me in its amazing artisan craftsmanship - creating paintings in fabric and stone. I do not however, think this one of her better books. I had no problem with the raunchiness - historical novelists know a bit of sex sells - Anya Seton, Sharon Penman and even, in their more restrained, bodice ripping style, Barbara Cartland and Georgina Heyer all wanted to excite their readers, but for the first time in one of her books I felt uneasily that these late 15th century people were essentially 20th century ones and that their actions and attitudes would not have been allowed for a moment. Annoyingly 20th century teenage Claude would have been whisked off to that convent in double quick time a lot sooner. Many reviewers have complained they didn't find the characters "sympathetic" - history is not necessarily sympathetic - remember that the past is another country and they do things differently there. Wherein, I think, lies my slight dissatisfaction with this book; the mechanics are magnificently described, but I don't feel the characters truly reflect or inhabit their surroundings. I would probably award this 3 1/2 stars if allowed, whilst nonetheless conceding this is a well written book that had me reading it until the small hours.
The passages on the weaving industry was fascinating and the descriptions of the weaving techniques would delight anyone interested in crafts.
This is a book I think pretty much anyone could read, it's written in a great way as it's not through the eyes of one character but many. A must read.
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