This historical novel about female author George Sand is an interesting and fun glimpse into the life of an early feminist and bisexual. Known best for her preference for dressing as a man and for living independently, at a time when women didn’t do such things, I found Sand’s observations about people and life fascinating. Awarded four stars on Goodreads.
The novel is written in the style of a memoir, beginning with childhood memories of her aristocratic father and courtesan mother and their struggle for acceptance by the father’s family. George’s difficult relationship with her mother, part rivalry and part idolatry, rings true as does her relationship with her father’s mother, who winds up with the primary responsibility for Sand’s formative years. There are years spent in a convent school, where Sand considers the possibility of life of a nun, followed by an early marriage to a man she doesn’t love. Their married life, children, her string of lovers, and a career as a prolific writer are sprinkled with meetings with the prominent names of the day — novelist Honore de Balzac, novelist Victor Hugo, artist Eugene Delacroix, Hungarian composer Franz Liszt, and of course, Polish composer Frederic Chopin.
Berg’s narrative voice is believable and an insightful way to understand the difficulty of being a smart and capable woman in a society that so strictly limits the role women can have. Sand’s talent and intelligence run continually up against the expectations of those around her. And I felt sorry that she so clearly lived at the wrong time.
On the other hand, the novels Sand left behind, many of which are referenced in this novel, do a fabulous job of using material from her real life to expose the inequities of French society in the 19th century.
More about the author, Elizabeth Berg.