I’m not as familiar with the work of George Sand as I should be, but rarely can I let a fictional work about an author’s life that I find even half-interesting slip by without taking at least a peek.
Blurb (Amazon): At the beginning of this powerful novel, we meet Aurore Dupin as she is leaving her estranged husband, a loveless marriage, and her family’s estate in the French countryside to start a new life in Paris. There, she gives herself a new name—George Sand—and pursues her dream of becoming a writer, embracing an unconventional and even scandalous lifestyle. Paris in the nineteenth century comes vividly alive, illuminated by the story of the loves, passions, and fierce struggles of a woman who defied the confines of society. Sand’s many lovers and friends include Frédéric Chopin, Gustave Flaubert, Franz Liszt, Eugène Delacroix, Victor Hugo, Marie Dorval, and Alfred de Musset. As Sand welcomes fame and friendship, she fights to overcome heartbreak and prejudice, failure and loss. Though considered the most gifted genius of her time, she works to reconcile the pain of her childhood, of disturbing relationships with her mother and daughter, and of her intimacies with women and men. Will the life she longs for always be just out of reach—a dream? Brilliantly written in luminous prose, and with remarkable insights into the heart and mind of a literary force, The Dream Lover tells the unforgettable story of a courageous, irresistible woman.
I adored this novel, and one of the immediate draws is Berg’s writing. I must admit that I’ve not read anything else by Berg, so I can’t make any types of comparison on that level. But I can say that The Dream Lover is a novel splendidly written. [I love the blurb’s language – ‘luminous prose.’] I appreciate the experimentation with language that we encounter in the current generation of modern writers, but this novel is different. Berg does not attempt an experimental style of writing, rather she hearkens back to an older feel and style which is immensely appropriate, given the novel’s time and subject. Berg hits the mark – The Dream Lover reads like an autobiography written by someone with the skill and discipline of George Sand. On a related theme, my second note (I actually make review notes while reading) is that the novel is deftly and perfectly edited. Rarely do I find a novel which gets such high marks on both writing and editing.
Then we get to heart of the matter – our story. I enjoyed the way the novel was constructed, essentially moving back and forth, alternating chapter by chapter, from memories in the more distant past to events framed as contemporary to the time of writing. This style of organization is not all that uncommon, though not commonly carried out as well as Berg manages. Berg makes clear, in the afterward, that the novel follows one potential story of George Sand’s life (of which there are varying and differing biographies, and an autobiography with a less than entirely reliable narrator). With her chosen set of life events, Berg is the master. Every character, every action, every interaction, all ring true. You feel like you come away having met George Sand…and you have, at least one version of her.
My main inspiration in writing book reviews is to share books that I love with other people (though I occasionally have to pen a negative review as well), and my interaction with a book as I read it is one of my main sources of information in my reviews. Blurbs tell the story; I don’t like to write book reports. On this, The Dream Lover wins in every category. I love how Berg is able to vividly express Sand’s love for writing – intense, passionate, exciting. Reading this novel also inspired me to work more on my own writing projects. This is one of the best kinds of novels, inspiring readers to pursue the things they love without hesitation.
A few parting notes…the book contains a nuanced look at relationships and how they develop (good and bad) and the dynamics that impact them (again both good and bad). It was also interesting to see and consider how people interact with different segments of society depending on their own maturity level and place in that same society. The people she (Sand) knew, and whom we come at least in part to know in the novel, were amazing (Lizst, Chopin, Hugo, Flaubert, a cadre of writers, poets, journalists, artists, singers, actors, the politically active) – it was lovely to run into these major figures of history, and to realize how people know one another, and have relationships with one another…and we, perhaps, never even consider those connections through the passage of history.
It is so nice to read a novel about such an amazing woman and writer; she truly was amazing as a woman in Paris of her day, from her success to appearance to how she chose to live her life. I hope to see more books of this type in general – it brings a great appreciation for ‘The Person’ to the reader of the novel.
I did love this book, and it joins my shortlist of “best books Matthew has read in 2015.” I will heartily recommend it to all of the readers I know, and I look forward to discovering more of Berg’s writing (and dipping into George Sand) as well.