- Hardcover: 256 pages
- Publisher: HarperCollins; First Edition edition (1 Sept. 2003)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0007140908
- ISBN-13: 978-0007140909
- Package Dimensions: 21.4 x 13.8 x 3.2 cm
- Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars See all reviews (97 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,643,091 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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
Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I went to see the tapestries in Paris shortly after reading this, and it definitely added perspective to the experience.Published 6 months ago by Virginia J Brunton
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 11 months 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 12 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 12 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 13 months ago by Caractacus