NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • NAMED ONE OF THE TEN BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY USA TODAY • Elizabeth Berg has written a lush historical novel based on the sensuous Parisian life of the nineteenth-century writer George Sand—which is perfect for readers of Nancy Horan and Elizabeth Gilbert.
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.
Praise for The Dream Lover
“Exquisitely captivating . . . Sand’s story is so timely and modern in an era when gender and sexual roles are upended daily.”—USA Today
“Fantastic . . . a provocative and dazzling portrait . . . Berg tells a terrific story, while simultaneously exploring sexuality, art, and the difficult personal choices women artists in particular made—then and now—in order to succeed. . . . The book, imagistic and perfectly paced, full of dialogue that clips along, is a reader’s dream.”—The Boston Globe
“Absorbing . . . an armchair traveler’s delight . . . Berg rolls out the wonders of nineteenth-century Paris in cinematic bursts that capture its light, its street life, its people and sounds. . . . The result is an illuminating portrait of a magnificent woman whose story is enriched by the delicate brush strokes of Berg’s colorful imagination.”—Chicago Tribune
“There is authority and confidence in the storytelling that makes the pages fly.”—The New York Times
“Berg weaves an enchanting novel about the real life of George Sand.”—Us Weekly
“Lavishly described . . . Berg uses her own skill as a writer to graphically present the reader with a clear picture of a brilliant, yet flawed woman.”—Fredericksburg Free Lance–Star
“[A] beautiful, imaginative re-creation . . . Berg’s years-long immersion in the writings of and about Sand has resulted in a remarkable channeling of Sand’s voice.”—Library Journal (starred review)
“Berg offers vivid, sensual detail and a sensitive portrayal of the yearning and vulnerability behind Sand’s bold persona.”—Publishers Weekly
“A thoroughly pleasant escape . . . [Sand is] intoxicating, beautiful, gifted, desirous, unconventional and heartbroken.”—Kirkus Reviews
|Publisher:||Random House Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.11(w) x 7.98(h) x 0.87(d)|
About the Author
Elizabeth Berg is the author of many bestselling novels, including Tapestry of Fortunes, The Last Time I Saw You, Home Safe, The Year of Pleasures, and Dream When You’re Feeling Blue, as well as two collections of short stories and two works of nonfiction. Open House was an Oprah’s Book Club selection, Durable Goods and Joy School were selected as ALA Best Books of the Year, Talk Before Sleep was short-listed for an Abby Award, and The Pull of the Moon was adapted into a play. Berg has been honored by both the Boston Public Library and the Chicago Public Library. She is a popular speaker at venues around the country, and her work has been translated into twenty-seven languages. She is the founder of Writing Matters, a reading series designed to serve author, audience, and community. She divides her time between Chicago and San Francisco.
Date of Birth:December 2, 1948
Place of Birth:St. Paul, Minnesota
Education:Attended the University of Minnesota; St. Mary¿s College, A.A.S.
Read an Excerpt
***This excerpt is from an advance uncorrected proof***
My father’s name was Maurice Dupin. His great-grandfather was Augustus II, king of Poland; and his grandfather was Maurice de Koenigsmark, later called the Maréchal de Saxe when he was the most exalted field marshal in Napoleon’s army. This maréchal was renowned not only for his cunning and bravery upon the battlefield but for a particular kind of bonhomie he demonstrated in war. For instance, he commonly arranged for women and theater for himself and his men to enjoy after a good day of battle—never, he believed, would they appreciate such things more. All of France knew his name.
And so it was in my father’s blood, his great love of the military, and he joined the army in 1798, when he was twenty years old, never mind his mother twisting her handkerchief. Two years later, he was transferred to Milan, Italy, as an aide-de-camp, and it was there that he met my mother.
She was Antoinette-Sophie-Victoire Delaborde, called Sophie, a courtesan currently living with a general who’d been smitten by her great beauty, her passion, and her gaiety. As was my father. He stole her away from the general, apparently with little ill will, for he was later promoted.
In many letters written to his mother at this time, my father spoke of his love for his fine mistress, and my grandmother worried and fretted, frightened to death that her son might marry someone so far beneath him. She knew that my mother was four years older than Maurice and of a lower class, born to a poor man who sold songbirds on the quays of the Seine, and that in addition to working as a camp follower, she had a young daughter. It was not the match my grandmother had in mind for her beloved son.
There was in this no small measure of hypocrisy. My grandmother may have had illustrious aristocrats in her family, but she came from a long line of illegitimate births, including her father’s. And she herself was illegitimate—her mother, ironically, was a courtesan who had captured the Maréchal de Saxe’s attention.
My father went on to distinguish himself in battle, as his grandfather had, but then he was captured by the enemy and held for two months as a prisoner of war. In May 1801, after his release, he returned home to my grandmother at Nohant. His normally buoyant personality had changed; he had about him an air of melancholy. One would expect such a change after a man is subjected to the ills of imprisonment—vile treatment, near starvation, and only straw upon the ground for a bed. Add to this the mental distress of my father coming to understand that he was perhaps not destined always to be lucky, as he had often told his mother—he was as vulnerable as anyone else. But what beleaguered my father most in those days was the thought that he would have to choose between two women, both of whom he loved.
My grandmother had been my father’s only parent since, when he was nine years old, his father died, leaving the little family enough of a fortune that my grandmother had a comfortable yearly income. In 1793, when the eleven months of the Reign of Terror began and the ruling Jacobins were ordering mass executions by guillotine in order to compel obedience to the state, she had fled her apartment in Paris and bought a peaceful country estate 150 miles south of the city. It was in the Berry region, a gently hilly, largely agricultural area of central France, and the estate lay just outside the little village of Nohant-Vic, population 272. Nohant was situated between the larger towns of Châteauroux and La Châtre.
The house itself, done in the style of Louis XVI, was commodious without being ostentatious. It had once been the site of a fourteenth-century feudal castle, and the bell tower still stood, its dusty, tile-lined belfry serving as a gathering place for doves. On the estate’s acreage were the smaller houses of peasants, tenant farmers who worked the land. With its fields, expansive gardens, acres of forests, and the Indre River running through it, it was a beautiful place in which to grow up.
In the absence of his own father, my father displayed toward his mother the protective attitude that is understandable in such situations. Their correspondence to each other revealed a mutual affection and appreciation as well as a deep level of trust; and oftentimes the language my father used in expressing his longing to see his mother bordered more than a little on the romantic.
But Sophie! Literally from the time my father first saw her, he was obsessed with her. He had had plenty of opportunities to delight in the charms of highborn, beautiful, and cultured women. Sophie offered something different, something more. He—and many others, I might add—found her irresistible. The more time he spent with her, the more his love intensified.
After he’d been released from prison, my father had gone to see Sophie in Paris. At that time, she was again living with a general, but she begged my father to take her with him when he went back to Nohant. Because he was at that point a penniless soldier (he did not then or ever like to rely upon his mother for his support), she even offered to lend him money to fund the trip. My father’s response was that my mother should think carefully and without his influence about whether she truly wanted to be with him, leaving behind a man who kept her in a manner most comfortable. My father’s charm would not buy bread.
It took almost no time for my mother to make her decision: she elected to throw in her lot with my father, the man she truly loved. And so the two of them set out for Nohant.
My father had a plan: rather than introducing the two women right away, he would set Sophie up three miles away in La Châtre, at an inn called the Tête Noire. When the time was right, he would make the introduction.
After he spent a few days at Nohant, my father began disappearing for long stretches of time, telling his mother he was visiting relatives. But she suspected he was seeing a woman and finally confronted her son.
My father admitted that it was Sophie he was seeing, that he was keeping her at the inn. He said, “She has sacrificed everything in order to be with me. I am full of gratitude toward her, full of joy that she has chosen to be by my side.”
My grandmother’s feelings were hardly the same. Bosom heaving, lace cockade trembling at the top of her head, she told her son that she refused to meet Sophie. She berated him for the scandal such a woman’s presence would cause and requested that he immediately send Sophie back to Paris, without him.
“For so many long days and nights I turned away food, I could not sleep, for worry about you,” she told him. “I rejoiced that when you came home on leave you would be with me until you had to return to the service. Now even when you are with me, you are not; your thoughts are always with her. Please, I beg you, send her away; give yourself time to think carefully about your future!”
My father’s response was uncharacteristically strident. “You ask me to turn her away as though she were a vulgar mistress, when I tell you over and over again that in fact I adore her! Was it not you who made me an acolyte of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who said that we are all born good and capable of self-improvement? Have you not all your life taught me to appreciate the noble attributes of people regardless of their class?”
My grandmother only stared at him, helpless to explain the difference between what is in a mother’s head and what is in her heart.
They went round and round, each wounded, each hoping the other would come to understand their version of the irrefutable truth. The dinner table, once gay with stories and laughter, was now all but silent, the clinking of silverware and the murmur of the servants the only sounds.
It was Jean-François Deschartres who finally resolved the issue in a bold move, one that came with dire consequences.
Deschartres was my father’s tutor. He was a secularized cleric, having studied for the priesthood without being ordained, and he was under my grandmother’s employ. He was inordinately devoted to both my father and her.
He was an odd man, very thin and tall, pale of skin and eye. He kept his tonsured hairstyle, and he favored wearing knee breeches and stockings and yellow gaiters. In cold weather, he always wore the same ancient brown coat. He had a stutter that was more pronounced when he was nervous, and he was occasionally excitable in the way of an old woman. He had, too, an air of perpetual distractibility, as though he held the Almighty in one hand and you in the other and could never quite decide to whom he should give his complete attention.
But Deschartres was also highly intelligent, an expert in teaching a great variety of subjects. He had no understanding of love or passion, however. He looked upon such emotions as something that must be tolerated in his fellow human beings, a kind of tic of personality he felt fortunate not to be burdened by.
Hearing the arguments between my father and my grandmother must have distressed Deschartres greatly; he had never before seen them behave toward each other in this way. And so early one morning, while the rest of the household was asleep, he went to see Sophie. He intended to persuade her, for the good of all, to leave immediately.
He picked a bouquet of flowers before he left, and on the ride over, he practiced in his mind what he would say to her. When he got to the inn, he quickly climbed the stairs to her room and knocked at the door.
He knocked again, loudly now, and heard a low voice, sweet in tone, say, “Maurice?”
“It is I, François Deschartres, Maurice’s tutor.” He felt a sudden rush of blood to his head, an outbreak of perspiration. He wiped his upper lip and leaned forward to speak authoritatively into the crack of the door. “I have come with an important message for you.” He put his ear to the crack to listen for her response and heard Sophie walk quickly across the floor. There were sounds of rapid dressing, and then she flung open the door.
Upon seeing her, Deschartres was at first speechless: she had been sleeping, and there was a soft pink flush to the cheeks of her heart-shaped face. Her eyes were wide and dark and very beautiful, direct in their gaze. She was barefoot, and her black hair was not done up but loose around her face, cascading over her shoulders. Her bosom was ample, her waist narrow, and she had about her an air of sultry grace.
He asked if he might come in.
“Bien sûr,” she said, most pleasantly, and stepped aside to let him pass. She was very small in stature, and it must have given even dry-souled Deschartres pause to think about delivering such a stern directive to one so tiny.
He offered her the bouquet, and she took it without looking at it. “Has something happened?”
“Only this,” Deschartres said. “Your presence here has made for a great rift in the relationship between Maurice and his mother, whom, as you must know, he loves more than any person on earth. Every day they argue bitterly, and I can tell you most assuredly that this is not their way; they have always been unusually close. I have come to ask you to go back to Paris. Maurice says you love him; what better way can you prove it than to spare him the terrible pain you are now causing him? Give him distance, give him time, do not subject him any longer to such terrible strain, especially when he has so recently been freed from prison. Surely, without any need for elaboration, you can see that you are not meant for each other. He is in need of peace and care and quiet. Now, if you will kindly collect your things, I shall arrange—”
“Out of my sight, you fool!” Sophie cried, flinging the bouquet to the floor. “Go back to kissing the withered feet of your benefactress! Do not spoil Maurice’s and my happiness with such a ridiculous demand. Do you imagine that I do not know what Maurice needs now? You may rest assured it is not his mother!”
And then, small as she was, she forced Deschartres from the room, slamming and locking the door after him.
An outraged Deschartres knocked again and again, to no avail. Finally, he said, “Have it your way, then, ignorant girl! You leave me with no choice but to call upon the authorities. Then we shall see how long you stay here spinning your web! You are a common prostitute, rightfully worthless in the eyes of respectable people, and you do not belong here!”
“I’ll leave this pedestrian place all right,” Sophie shouted. “And I’ll take Maurice with me, you’ll see! You have no idea how much he loves me. Every day, he begs me to marry him! I’ll take him with me and we will never return!”
Excerpted from "The Dream Lover"
Copyright © 2016 Elizabeth Berg.
Excerpted by permission of Random House Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Reading Group Guide
Elizabeth Berg on George Sand
To anyone who observes my life superficially, I must seem either a fool or a hypocrite. But whoever looks below the surface must see me as I really am—-very impressionable, carried away by my love of beauty, hungry for truth, faulty in judgment, often absurd, and always sincere.
—George Sand, in a letter to a friend
Even without knowing much about her, many people are fascinated by George Sand. I am one of them, and I was amazed that no one had written a novel about her. I called my friend Nancy Horan (Loving Frank) and told her she just had to write a novel about George Sand: her life was so sexy, so interesting! Nancy said, “Nah, you do it.” So I did.
George Sand, whose real name was Aurore Dupin Dudevant, was a nineteenthcentury French novelist whose work elucidated the deepest thoughts and feelings and frustrations of the female psyche and, later in her career, illuminated class struggle. In 1831, when she was twentysix, she left her philandering husband to attempt a literary life in Paris. At twentyeight, she published her first novel, Indiana, and it made her the first woman to become a bestselling novelist in France. It also made her famous internationally. She was prolific: she wrote more than eighty novels, thirtyfive plays, and a great deal of nonfiction. Her work has been widely praised by everyone from Fyodor Dostoyevsky to Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Yet she is mostly remembered today for wearing men’s clothing (first, so she could get cheap seats at the theater), smoking cigars, and having scandalous love affairs, most notably with composer Frédéric Chopin, with whom she lived for eight years and whose work she helped shape and inspire. She was friends with Franz Liszt, Gustave Flaubert, and Eugene Delacroix, who painted her. But I believe that the greatest love of Sand’s life was a woman, a French actress named Marie Dorval, who, at the time George Sand met her, was the toast of Paris. (She was also was a nineteenthcentury wild woman, taking lovers of either sex with impunity and with her husband’s knowledge.)
I was first attracted to George Sand because of some tantalizing information that I came across about her in The Writer’s Almanac’s daily newsletter, which offers a poem and snippets of information about things literary. When I began researching Sand by reading her long autobiography, a number of biographies, some of her novels, her letters, and her journal, I saw that she was a woman of great contradiction: her father was an aristocrat and her mother was a courtesan. George Sand was a rebel who was put into a convent to learn the social graces and ended up wanting to become a nun. She adored children and prized the ideal of family but became estranged from her own daughter and husband. She had a great appreciation for life but also frequently contemplated suicide. She loved the peace of her country estate, Nohant, but was equally drawn to the hustle and bustle of Paris. She spoke out against the enslavement of women yet enslaved herself to men. Described by poet Alfred de Musset as the most feminine woman he had ever known, she often called herself a man. Her entire life was full of drama, both by circumstance and by her own hand.
I came to admire George Sand for the beauty, crystalline logic, and easy flow of her prose, for her acute insight into the human psyche, and for her evocation of the loveliness of nature. I admired as well her mysticism and her politics. But mostly I admired her for her essential goodness of heart, her humanity, her vulnerability. She was a political activist who was heavily involved in the 1848 Revolution; an extraordinary intellectual who sat in salons and had long discussions with poets, writers, politicians, and philosophers; and a staunch advocate for women’s rights. But as she would be the first to admit—-and often did—-her raison d’être was love, and in it she was a fool, just like the rest of us. With this novel, I wanted to pre-sent an intimate portrait of a highly sensual, brilliant, complicated woman whose ideas are as relevant today as they were more than 150 years ago.
A Conversation Between
Elizabeth Berg and Nancy Horan
Nancy Horan is the bestselling author of Loving Frank and Under the Wide and Starry Sky.
NANCY HORAN: I know you were strongly drawn to George Sand’s story but you resisted writing a novel about her at first. What made you jump in and go for it?
ELIZABETH BERG: Well, the real answer, as you may recall, is that you wouldn’t! One day I read a little about George Sand on The Writer’s Almanac, and I got very excited about learning more. I especially wanted to know the “good stuff,” which is to say, deeply personal things about her character as well as her thoughts and feelings, even if those things were largely conjecture. I thought you would be the perfect person to write a novel about her; I so admired the way you provided intimate access into the character of Mamah Cheney in Loving Frank. So I called you to beg you to write about George Sand. I believe when you answered the phone I said, “Nancy! You have to write about George Sand! She’s so interesting!” You had just finished Under the Wide and Starry Sky, and you weren’t ready to begin another huge undertaking. And, of course, I assume you are like most writers and want to pick your own subjects, not have them thrust upon you. At any rate, you said, “You write it!” I told you I couldn’t possibly. But then the idea wouldn’t go away, and so I plunged in, buoyed up by the last words you said to me: “Oh, of course you can write it. It will be fabulous!”
NH: I think creating a voice for a real historical figure, particularly for someone who lived nearly two hundred years ago, is rather tricky. How did you arrive at the voice you used for George Sand? Did you pull expressions from her letters to integrate into the dialogue? Did you stick to language as it was used at the time, or did you feel free to use more contemporary expressions?
EB: You know, it is a tricky thing, and I did try hard to stay away from contemporary expressions, which, when you’re reading historical fiction, can take you right out of the story. In the end, I think the way the language thing worked for me was the way my other books have worked best: the less predetermined—-the less conscious—-things are, the better.
When I was nine years old, my family lived in Texas for a while. It took me about thirtyfive seconds to develop a Southern accent, to incorporate “y’all” quite naturally into my speech. I came in one night and told my parents my friend and I had to stop playing because Sherry was “fixing to eat.” My parents exchanged amused glances, and I thought, What? What’s funny?
Anyway, what I mean to say is that things rub off on me. I have a tendency to imitate, to pretend, to dramatize, as I believe many fiction writers do. So when I read (i.e., “listen to”) a lot of a person, as I did when I read George Sand’s thousandpluspage autobiography, Story of My Life, that person’s ways of thinking and speaking rub off. George Sand entered my subconscious. I began to dream of her; then, I thought, to dream like her. I know that might sound arrogant or at least unlikely. But I believe she captured me, and I was a most willing prisoner.
NH: I find the foreignness of the past attractive territory to explore. Modern lives seem more daunting to portray in a fresh way, since so much is familiar terrain. Do you agree? Can you talk a bit about the different challenges and attractions of portraying modern lives versus historical lives?
EB: I agree that the past is wonderful to explore: evocative—-thrilling, really—-and quite necessary, when you’re writing historical fiction. But I find it much more difficult to write about the past than the present. I move through pages very quickly and easily when I write about modern times. When I’m trying to recreate something from so long ago, the pressure bears down upon me. So much to find out about, and to be responsible for! Clothes, language, the sounds of the streets, what bathrooms were like, how lamb was served, the tone of the newspapers, where one bought soap, the feel of a carriage ride over cobblestones. I spent a long time with my chin in my hands writing this book, wondering if I really should go on with it.
NH: George was considered a scandalous woman for her time. What do you think was particularly unusual about her? Do you think her reputation affected—-helped or hindered—-her career as a writer? How did it feel to write a novel about such a controversial figure?
EB: Henry James described coming up with the idea for a novel as creating a big “to do” around a character. When you write about someone real who was so controversial, the “to do” comes built in. But I am always interested in the backstory—-when someone is described as being scandalous, or out of order, or different, or demanding, especially when that someone is a woman—-and I am full of questions. What made her that way? What kind of vulnerability is behind great strength? What kind of sadness lives inside a person believed to be joyful? Or, conversely, what gaiety is there in someone viewed as being very serious? One of the things I learned in writing this novel is that the esteemed Russian writer Ivan Turgenev loved being silly. He was quite the party animal, as opposed to another of Sand’s close friends, Gustave Flaubert, who was like Eeyore the donkey in his depressive outlook.
I think what was unusual about Sand was the way her male and female qualities existed side by side, the way she was fluid about assuming the character of a man or a woman, sometimes simultaneously. Also, she was a mass of contradictions: she advocated strongly for women but didn’t like being around them all that much (with one notable exception). She was called bold but in fact was very shy. Her strongest desire was for love, but she had a pattern of having (or making) relationships disintegrate. In her time and even now, she was both reviled and adulated. She created her own god, renouncing the ideas found in organized religion, yet in her youth she wanted to be a nun.
Her reputation may have helped her as a writer, but I think it was mostly her great talent. And in any case, her reputation changed. In her own small hometown of Nohant, she went from being disapproved of—-even reviled—-to being called “The Good Woman of Nohant,” and she was deeply mourned by everyone from peasants to princes after her death.
As to how it felt writing about her, one phrase will do: challenging but exhilarating.
NH: George’s relationships with women, especially the women in her family, were very complicated. What connections do you see between George’s relationship with her mother, Sophie, and George’s subsequent relationship with her own daughter, Solange? With other people? With the actress Marie Dorval? Chopin? What might these relationships say about George herself?
EB: This is a very complicated question with a simple, twopart answer, as I see it. If you do not get the love you so desperately need early in your life, you search for it ever after. And whatever your experience of love was in those young and vulnerable years, you tend to reenact it in future relationships. Sand’s mother was by turns loving and cruel, or at least indifferent; so Sand was with her own daughter. In Sand’s relationships with men, she tended to go quickly from being passionate to being maternal, because she felt that if men needed her, they would not leave her. For Marie, she served as a man who loved with the intensity and devotion and sensitivity of a woman. I think it takes an enormous amount of insight and hard work to make yourself step out of or away from dangerous patterns that you adopt unconsciously early in life, but it can be done. That George Sand was happy and at peace with herself in her later years (after so many years of experiencing deep depressions and suicidal ideation) attests to that.
NH: Was it daunting to write about another writer? Did you reach any new understandings about the art of writing by studying Sand’s works and her comments on the subject? Do you see yourself any differently, as a writer, now that you’ve written this book?
EB: It wasn’t daunting to write about another writer, but it was daunting to write about someone so fiercely intelligent, and whose prose was so startlingly lucid and precise. I didn’t reach any new understandings about the writing process; rather, I had my own methods validated. Sand did not plot, she was wildly prolific, and she wrote from the heart. I can, as they say, relate to that.
NH: You recreate so wonderfully life in Paris in the 1820s and ’30s, and in the French countryside near Sand’s family’s estate at Nohant. What did you find about these places, this era, that inspired you? Was it liberating to write about an era different from your own?
EB: It was great fun to imagine how the sights and sounds of the city of nineteenthcentury Paris would collide with the pastoral life Sand lived at Nohant. My challenge was to present the charms and allure of both lives. Sand loved and needed the intellectual and artistic and political life she had in Paris, but she needed equally the gifts of nature that she found in Nohant.
I was inspired by all the revolutionary goingson in Paris at that time, and the way that roles of women were challenged, the way that socialism kept trying to assert itself, the way that artists—-writers, musicians, painters, poets—-gathered together in salons for entertainment that was the opposite of virtual reality. Would that we had such salons today! I wanted to be there in those salons, and one of the joys in writing this book is that I was.
As for the scenes of nature, I’m a nature and bird lover myself, so all of that came pretty easily.
NH: What do you hope that your readers will take away from this book, and from George herself? What do you feel is most important about her relevance today?
EB: George Sand’s struggle to become and stay herself, in all her permutations, was of paramount importance, and that idea is still relevant today, whether you’re a man or a woman. How is it that we find our deepest truths? What directions in life serve to move us toward our highest purposes? How do we accommodate and respect changes in ourselves? What do we owe the earth, and each other? How can we focus on appreciating the small gifts we are offered daily, for free, and relieve ourselves of the neverending quest for more, more, more? How can we honor (and use!) what makes us different from others, rather than be ashamed of it? What is the best way to love and be loved?
All of these questions percolated in me as I wrote about George Sand, and I would be happy to have people who read the book take away the idea that answering such questions is not only our duty but our great pleasure. I would also like readers to consider whether it is true that we owe it to ourselves, and to those we love, to live in truth, even when it’s hard—-perhaps especially when it’s hard. If I could wish for one more thing, it would be that George Sand’s prose would be appreciated again, and that she would be understood as someone who was a bit more than the ruthless cigarsmoking nymphomaniac she is often portrayed as.
Finally, honestly, I will tell you that I hope readers will finish the last sentence of The Dream Lover and think to themselves, Boy! That was a good read!
1. George Sand felt she was abandoned by her mother. Did being left with her grandmother at an early age make her stronger or weaker? In what ways would George’s life have been different if her father had lived?
2. George behaved boldly but was at heart very shy. Did you notice any other paradoxes in her character and life?
3. Two very different environments were important to George’s life and work: the city of Paris and her country home at Nohant. Which do you think was more important to her? What did each offer her?
4. How do you think George’s marriage affected her art? Do you think genetics or life circumstances contribute more strongly to the making of an artist?
5. George fluidly assumed both male and female roles. She often referred to herself as a man, yet Alfred de Musset called her the most feminine woman he had ever known. What was your perception of George?
6. The motherdaughter relationships depicted in The Dream Lover are particularly complex. Do you think Sophie was a “bad” mother? What about George herself?
7. What do you think George needed most from a relationship? How is that different from what she believed she needed?
8. George described herself as “very impressionable, carried away by my love of beauty, hungry for truth, faulty in judgment, often absurd, and always sincere.” Do you agree?
9. In her quest to live truthfully, George left her husband altogether and was away from her children much of the time. How do you feel about that? Was she motivated by necessity or selfishness?
10. George quickly became maternal with her male lovers. She said at one point that it was so they would become dependent on her and not leave her. What do you think of this statement?
11. One of the great sorrows in George’s life was her contentious relationship with her daughter. What might have improved her relationship with Solange?
12. The Dream Lover suggests that Marie Dorval was the great love of George’s life. How do you feel about Marie’s assertion that one seeks not the object of one’s desire, but desire itself? Could George have accepted anything but continuous passion in a relationship?
13. Nature and spirituality were important constants in George’s life. What were the sources of these affinities? How did they play out in her work and in her life? How did they affect her worldview? If she had been allowed to become a nun, do you think she would have stayed one?
14. Some people say that the hardest sorrow to bear is the idea of what might have been. What do you think?
15. Did you learn anything surprising about George’s famous friends, such as Chopin, Flaubert, Balzac, and Liszt?
16. At the end of the novel, George is quoted as saying in a letter to Delacroix that nothing dies, nothing is lost, and nothing ends. What sentiments or experiences do you think fueled that remark? How do you interpret it?
17. Do you think that George and the things she wrote about are still relevant more than 150 years later?
18. The Dream Lover invites us into the world of salons. Do you think that book clubs are the same kind of enriching, stimulating environment? Why do we need book clubs? What do they offer our spirits and psyches that reading alone does not? How can they be expanded to provide an even deeper experience?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
THE DREAM LOVER is a historical fiction account of the life of George Sand (Amantine-Lucile-Aurore Dupin), with a very strong emphasis on her love life and suggested bisexuality. It took me a while to get into the rhythm of the novel because the chapters alternated between past and present until eventually merging into a present telling. While THE DREAM LOVER wasn't a favorite of mine, I did enjoy the writing style of Elizabeth Berg enough that I would read other novels by this author.
I found this book very difficult to read. The author constantly goes back and forth between love and hate, appreciation and dislike. There are so many contradictions to her characters it was easy to see that they were merely concoctions and in no way real people. While the writing technically good, overall, the book never connected up for me in a believable, authentic way. And when the author wrote (almost at the end of the book) that Gustave Flaubert often read three books in a day and "took great offense at being interrupted while he did so," I totally gave up. The book after a while was a chore to read, contained a great many contradictions which were hard, if not impossible to sort out, and seemed to be more of a sentimental fantasy than a real depiction of a real woman, George Sand.
This book is so beautifully written and I felt transported in time and place as I read. What a remarkable person was George Sand. Completely relatable two centuries later. I am inspired to learn more about her and to read her work. Yes, Elizabeth Berg, I did fall a little in love with her. Thank you.
I do love the author but I felt that this isn't her best effort. The story didn't flow well. Even though the chapters shifted in time it could've been smoother. Her relationship with Chopin was given short shrift but then again I hadn't been aware of all her other relationships including a husband and children. So though being informative (and I appreciate all her research) it isn't my favorite of her tales.
Check out the full review at Kritters Ramblings Lots of love affairs and a little bit of writing and publishing, but nothing felt right given the time period. Set in the 1830s and 1840s in Paris, a woman who wants to be a writer and is separating from her husband just didn't work for me. I have since looked up Aurore/George Sand and know that the story is based in truth, but throughout my whole reading I just couldn't put my finger on why it didn't work for me and didn't seem at all plausible. Although George Sand becomes an interesting figure in publishing, I felt like the book didn't focus on that, but instead focused on the many love affairs and moves from home to home. At a certain point, I didn't care about all the sleeping around and wanted more dynamic action from the story.
I am sorry I bought this book. It is a mess, back and forth, I was not able to continue reading, even trying to look ahead was difficult. There is nothing I can say, it would be a waste of time as this book was for me.
I always describe Elizabeth Berg as being my favorite writer and I have read all of her books, but this one is a huge disappointment. Her writing is always beautiful, but this book is not engaging. Perhaps the problem is that the main character is not likable and actually not very interesting. She is presented as being very self-centered and unlikable. I just could not get involved with the story and while I read it to the end, I was glad to reach the end. My biggest disappointment with the book is the format in which Miss Berg continuously switches back and forth from one time period to another. The switches are frequent and jarring. Just as we get involved with the story, we must switch gears-very, very confusing. As much as I love her body of work, I cannot recommend this book.
Ms Berg's earlier books were literary gems, but the last several have been huge disappointments. Dream Lover is yet another failure. Overly sentimental prose with odd time and character shifts made it impossible to maintain interest or curiosity.
One may wonder what is that fires the thoughts and imagination of a great writer. Then the curiosity is satisfied when we read about or encounter the depths of the character of that writer, a satisfaction one experiences when reading this novel. Elizabeth Berg has depicted the childhood and adult life of the controversial but well-known writer, George Sand. It matters not whether the reader agrees or disagrees with the lifestyle of any writer but one must acknowledge the creativity, uniqueness, passion and obsession behind the plots, characters, and ideas to be fleshed out on the page. As a child, George Sand was born as the child of a rich father and a prostitute mother who adored each other. But her father’s grandmother never accepted her son’s wife and let her granddaughter know it at every opportunity. As a result, the woman who was to become a famous 19th century author spent her childhood shuttled between relatives and a convent school. She became cold-hearted in many ways, married but then came to an arrangement with her husband whereby she would live in Paris and return to their home for certain time periods to be with her children. During that time, she met many writers who both supported and reviled her. Obsessed with having the same equality with men, she eventually dressed as a man and engaged with writers and musicians, including Balzac, Chopin, Hugo, Delacroix, Lizt and more. She found a great love and respect with the passionate actress Marie Dorval and had brief romantic interludes with other men. But most of the time she took what one could only describe as a deep loneliness and disconnection from people into her writing. While most found the characters in her novels to be biographical, she insisted they were a composite of everyone she’d ever met but whose idea were clearly and unashamedly her own. Following George Sand’s development as a person and writer is fascinating but there is a serious lack in this novel about her writing, with only brief and vague references to certain characters and ideas. One also wonders about what she discussed with all of the famous artists she socialized with initially and why they abandoned her or even if it was she who abandoned them. It leaves many questions the reader may form unanswered. Elizabeth Berg is quite astute in depicting the complexities of a character and it is here she excels in forming a portrait of this enigmatic, troubled but talented writer whom readers have found intriguing and highly skilled over time. George Sand’s eccentric personality gave passion and clarity to the world she created in fiction. Fascinating novel!
Bloodmoon you will stop being evil or I wil get all of the clans I rp in to destroy your clan. The clan thing is supposed to be fun. You aren't supposed to try to kill everybody's clans. So stop raiding and destroying everybody elses clans.
Then just in time before skystar suffucates i leap on bloodmoons back digging my claws right into the ugly cat i find a way to climb up to her neck and at the last second with all my might snap her neck she fell on the floor with a thud dead. I look at skystar she supposed to be evil because that was easy. I ealk out listening to everyday we lit by PnB rock
"Why do you cry? I know you are haard on the outside but your bloodstains can be washed away..... " she looks in her eyes "if you really want to change come to my den at lavender result one."
Flickers into view in front of bloodmoon her transparebt body blocking her.
This is a bit of a change for Elizabeth Berg. I am an huge fan and have read most of her books. The Dream Lover takes a perplexing topic and some very intriguing facts about the life of Aurore Dudevantssue , who wrote under the pen name George Sand. She couldn't find a fictional novel about George Sand, so she decided to write one herself. Sand embarks on a quest to peruse writing, leaving a loveless marriage and children behind. Paris, and she has a lover who becomes disheartened by her success. As the journey of writing continues she has many other famous lovers and issues complex to 1833 but similar to us women today. The choices we make to move forward leave hardship and guilt like dust settling on the road. All one can do is drive forward. A scandalous lifestyle exists in every era, only she heightened the thrill of her sexuality to mimic a dream, a real life fantasy. The book divulges a great story of the hidden life of George Sand she now can say has been put to print in a fictional novel. Well done Elizabeth Berg. You never disappoint a loyal reader.
The story opens up in 1873 where George is an old woman. Knowing that her death is not entirely too far off, she reminisces about her earlier life. The story alternates between her childhood in the early 19th century and her life as a disgruntled married woman in the year 1831. As a married woman, George Sand has done the unthinkable and made an agreement with her husband where they would remain married but live separate lives. She spends the majority of her time living in Paris while her husband remains at the country estate with their two children, Maurice and Solange. What follows is a constant stream of lovers that happen to always leave George a dissatisfied shell of a person. Yes, there were bits of her writing books sprinkled in here or there but overall, it was mostly about her pursuit of a quick succession of lovers. From start to finish, this book was mind-numbingly dull. George Sand was a fascinating and colorful personage of the 19th century who really turned Parisian society upside down with her avant garde behavior. The author, Ms. Berg’s "The Dream Lover" was painful to read and there were times where I felt lost in a fog. I found her rendition of George Sand to be wooden and hollow. Furthermore, I found it difficult to enjoy the heroine. Most disappointing was her depiction of Frederic Chopin as well as some of the other historic characters as Franz Liszt and even Gustave Flaubert. To her credit, the author must have done a considerable amount of research and it is apparent in her writing, disjointed though it may be. It seemed almost as if Ms. Berg’s George Sand was a barnacle on her lovers’ backs. It would have been nice for the story to have been about Sand and less so about her interaction with lovers. **Reviewed by the Merry Wife of Windsor** www.MerryWifeofWindsor.com
About a famous French writer, an independent and scandalous woman. VERDICT: George Sand was a very popular writer in her days. While recreating the dynamic world of artists and writers of 19th century Paris, Elizabeth Berg draws the portrait of an independent woman, both talented and tormented, scandalous for many. A must for all lovers of French literature and historical novels. George Sand is a very important figure in French literature. Unfortunately, she is not as well know in the US, and I’m not aware of anyone writing a historical novel on her. So I seized the occasion when I heard about The Dream Lover. It was also a good way of finally reading a book by Elizabeth Berg. I’m shocked to see that the average rating she received so far for this book is not too high on Goodreads. I thought the book was really excellent. I have the feeling most readers had not even heard about George Sand, or at least they knew almost nothing about her eccentric life. And maybe they were not able to go beyond her character to appreciate the fabulous job Elizabeth Berg is doing in this book. Using a simple and evocative style not unlike George Sand’s itself, Berg recreates the difficult childhood Aurore Dupin, her real name, had. All along the novel, the author highlights how the difficult relationship Sand had with her own family background will replay with her own daughter. Her refuge is the family house at Rohant in the countryside. This village life is an important element in many of her novels. An easier time during her teen years was the time she was sent to perfect her education in a convent. The book opens when she leaves her loveless marriage to start a successful literary career in Paris. The book goes back and forth between this period and her childhood, until that moment. In Paris, introduced to the very active art and literary circles of the time, she enters in close relationships with both men and women, most quite famous writers, painters, and musicians. Chopin (who composed many of his works at Rohant) is famously known an her lover. If he was one of the longest ones, he was far from being the only one… Starting to dress as a man early on in life for practical reasons, it is easier to ride horses, which she enjoyed very much, she keeps doing it when she realizes it gives her a much better social presence. But during her life time (1804-1876) that could only add to the aura of scandal surrounding her. Her independence shows not only in her clothes and love relations, but also obviously in her writing. As Berg shows clearly following Sand’s main books, lots of her writing was about feminism, before the name even existed I think. She was a very popular writer, even eclipsing Victor Hugo at one point! I really enjoyed how Berg recreated the amazingly dynamic world of artists and writers at the time in Paris. And how she managed to combine together Sand’s emotional tormented life and the development of her writing as well as her political career.
I have read and enjoyed many books by Elizabeth Berg, but this book felt like an albatross hanging around my neck. A fictional account of the life of George Sand, the scandalous writer in the 1830's, screams for romance, rebellion, and courage. Berg's novel lacks emotion and structure. Many writers jump from narrator to narrator, or from early life to later life, but Berg's writing of young Aurore and careless Aurore jerks the reader back and forth without any consistency. The first person narrative in this novel does not work, as Aurore/George seems selfish and demanding, and incapable of love and responsibility. I struggled with the book, and never gained any appreciation for the style or content.
Author Elizabeth Berg became interested in the life of 19th century writer George Sand. She told her friend Nancy Horan, who has written historical novels such as Leaving Frank and Under a Starry Sky, based on real people, that she should write a book about George Sand. Horan said "Write it yourself!", so she did. The Dream Lover tells the story of George Sand, born Aurore Dupin to a wealthy soldier from a respected French family and his wife, a former courtesan who followed the military during battle and left a general to marry Aurore's family. Aurore narrates her own story, from her upbringing with her strict, controlling, wealthy grandmother through her marriage to a man who was a poor steward of her inheritance to her success as a novelist and her many love affairs along the way. I knew little about Sand, other than she was a French novelist who dressed in man's clothes. Sand began wearing men's clothes when she was a theatre critic, and she could buy tickets to the cheaper seats if she were a man. She liked wearing stylish men's clothes so much, she continued it most of her life. Aurore's great love of her life was Marie Dorval, a famous actress who loved life freely. Marie captivated Aurore, and Aurore fell madly in love with her. They remained friends most of their lives, until a falling out left Aurore bereft. Aurore's marriage constrained her, though it did give her two children- a daughter, with whom she had a strained relationship throughout their lives (like many mothers and daughters), and a son, with whom she had a better relationship. I found the sections on her feelings about motherhood fascinating, and it gave you a real feel for how Sand balanced her work with her family life. She had an agreement with her husband that she would spend three months at a time in Paris, where she would write, and then three months at home at her grandmother's estate that she now owned. Her months in Paris gave her a freedom she relished. She cultivated a group of intellectual and artistic friends, including Gustave Flaubert, Franz Liszt, Eugene Delacroix and Frederic Chopin, with whom she had a long term affair. Sand had many affairs, although some were with men who left her unfulfilled and unhappy. Reading how an intelligent, inquisitive, artistic woman like Sand had to deal with a society where women were discouraged from such behavior was fascinating. Sometimes when a story is told in different time shifts, as Berg does here with three basic alternating timelines, it can be confusing, but Berg weaves the timelines together seamlessly. Switching back and forth gave the book a coherence. I'm not a huge fan of historical fiction, but I enjoyed The Dream Lover a great deal. I felt dropped into Sand's story, like I was right there in France with her and she shared her story with me. Telling the story in her voice worked brilliantly here. George Sand is an amazing woman, and after reading The Dream Lover, I am heading out to find some of her novels. Fans of historical fiction should put The Dream Lover at the top of their must-read list.
For female writers in the 19th century, it was difficult, if not impossible to get a book published. So many women used male names. This is exactly what Aurore Dupin did. She assumed the name George Sand to publish her books. But Dupin also liked to dress as a man while she hobnobbed with other famous persons who also lived in France at the same time. Author Elizabeth Berg has written a comprehensive biographical fiction novel about this author's life. She sweeps the reader into the decadence of Paris, into illustrious salons and restaurants and houses. The novel moves back and forth through various stages of George Sand's life, from childhood, to a failed marriage, to the later years of her life. The book is written by a talented author, however, I struggled a bit with the over abundance of characters and the slow pace at the start of the book. It was a good book, but it did not grab me as I'd hoped it would. For those who wish to learn more about this fascinating author, then the book will provide great insight into this talented and prolific writer's life.
Interesting Historical Fiction I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. I didn’t love it and I didn’t hate it so I’d say 3-3.5 stars. Technically excellent first person narrative; the story travels back and forth in time as the main character recounts her life story. I had not previously heard of George Sands, and I am always interested in learning about unique women in history, however, as historical fiction, the story didn’t pack enough punch. The main character in this historical fiction was Amantine Lucile Aurore Dupin, who wrote under the nom d’plum George Sands. I anticipated a much more colorful story telling to capture the essence of such a colorful figure. I have enjoyed previous work by Elizabeth Berg, however, The Dream Lover didn’t work for me. The tedium of the book read more like a copiously detailed biography rather than a work of historical fiction. Since I was not previously familiar with George Sands, I didn’t realize the book was based on a real person’s life until I read another review. The review was fascinatingly filled with historical detail that made reading The Dream Lover less of a chore. I usually enjoy the complexity a dual timeframe or dual point-of-view adds to a story, but in The Dream Lover, using a dual timeframe, the author got bogged down in childhood detail that was not all that interesting. Some information needs to be presented as a basis for the character’s behavior, but it shouldn’t take over the majority of the book. The Dream Lover by Elizabeth Berg is an interesting first glimpse of the life of Aurore Dudevant aka George Sand, but I didn’t not find it to be a griping historical fiction.
Aurore Dudevant, neé Dupin (a.k.a. George Sand) was born in July, 1804, to Maurice Dupin, an aristocratic military man, and Sophie, a passionate belle with a checkered past and low social status. Maurice's mother never accepted the union between her son and Sophie, though in later years both women learned to coexist to the point of sharing the same living space. Aurore grew up under her paternal grandmother's care, until she married Casimir Dudevant, then her best friend, when she was eighteen years old (1822). By 1831 she had been tempted once to have an extramarital affair that never consummated, and had had a one night stand from which her daughter was conceived. By then it was evident she could not tolerate her husband any longer, while he hated her, so Aurore decided to leave him and become an author in Paris, at that point rather out of necessity, to supplement her annual allowance. Though Aurore inherited her family's fortune, her husband administered the estate because women could not. In 1835, she sought out legal separation from her husband and recovered Nohant, the property she inherited. She was also awarded custody of her two kids: Maurice (eldest) and Solange, five years his junior. George Sand was lover of poet Alfred de Musset and composer Frédéric Chopin. Among her friends were the likes of painter Delacroix, novelist Honoré de Balzac, musician and composer Franz Liszt, and novelist Gustave Flaubert. George Sand died in her estate of Nohant in 1876. The story is told in two parallel accounts: one starting with Aurore's birth to the point when she left her husband in 1831, and the other, which starts in 1831, marked as a relative "present tense" that continues for the ensuing years. While the past may hold a key to understanding Aurore, it is the "relative present" that is interesting enough to keep the reader from giving up on reading The Dream Lover, for Aurore becomes her truer self (not necessarily happier) after she leaves her husband and takes on many lovers. It is during those years that she starts dressing as a man, changes her pen name to George Sand and becomes a celebrated author with a much talked about public persona. I don't think Elizabeth Berg planned in advance what kind of flow would better suit this novel. From time to time there are brief glimpses of sumptuous prose, but soon after Berg recovers from those poetic spells and resorts to a sentimentality under which her protagonist suffers immensely. The prologue shows beautiful promise, but then Berg opens the novel resorting to language so common that even lovemaking seems trivial. It is a pity that a life so scandalous has been reduced to inconsequential for lack of passion for the subject. DISCLAIMER: I received from the publisher a free Galley of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
The Dream Lover is a historical fiction based on George Sand’s life. The French author had a very unusual life marred by tragedy and heartbreak, but also full of love and art. She was ahead of her time, a free spirit who didn’t shy away from leaving her husband or wearing trousers. In addition, she was a very successful writer and rubbed elbows with brilliant artists, including Honore de Balzac, Alfred de Musset, Marie Dorval, Eugene Delacroix, Frederic Chopin, and Gustave Flaubert. The book tells her story from her birth in 1804 to her death in 1876. The Dream Lover came about when Elizabeth Berg read interesting facts about George Sand in The Writer’s Almanac and realized that there were not a lot of books written about the French novelist. So she contacted her friend Nancy Horan, author of Loving Frank and asked her to write a book about George Sand. Nancy had just finished a novel, and she didn’t feel like writing another one just yet, so she told Elizabeth to do it herself. But Elizabeth had never written historical fiction before so it was a challenge for her. To prepare, she read George Sand’s autobiography, as well as her travel journals, and letters. I must say that Elizabeth Berg ended up doing a wonderful job. The Dream Lover is a fascinating look into George Sand’s life. The story is told in the first person which brings the reader closer to the main character. Chapters alternate between George Sand’s unhappy childhood and her life as a writer in Paris. The reader learns about all the wonderful artists of the time, as well as a bit about the tumultuous politic climate of the 19th century. However, I thought that there were too many characters in the story, and it was sometimes confusing and hard to keep track of everyone. In the end though, the book was an absorbing read about a woman who spent her life looking for love. The Dream Lover was sent to me for free in exchange for an honest review. Please go to my blog, Cecile Sune - Bookobsessed, if you would like to read more reviews or discover fun facts about books and authors.
Warning i made the kids names up: "johnathan are you having fun?" A woman asked her son "ya momma bonnies letting me ride his shoulders wheeeee!!" He exclaimed a girl not far away sat neatly she wore a yellow dress with white flowers sewn into it she smiled at chica as she took a bite of her pizza "hi maddie!" A girl waved to the child in the child in the yellow dress "a rosy cheeked girl ran towards her, her brown hair bounced with every step she was wearing freddys hat the two girls played together and decided to go watch the show johnathan sat next to them making silly faces he wore binnies guitar a boy with red hair walked up to them he had just visited foxy from pirates cove hi guys he smiled they watched the animatronkc show until they spotted a goldenfreddy holding a cake a young boy ran up to the kids "cmon golden freddy has special games and cake! Oh by the way my names josh!" The blond haired boy smiled "cmon" the kids shrugged their shoulders and followed them into unfamilar room golden freddy shut the door and clicked it shut josh froze "wheres the cake?" He started to cry all the children were weeping suddenly a voice came from indside the suit "shut up" it said he took off the mask and suit to their surprise it was a security gaurd with purple clothing he smiled an insane smiled and pulled a knife from his pocket he grabbed the yellow dress girl by the hair and slit her throat instantly killing her the children screamed in terror next he grabbed the girl with the freddy hat stabbed her heart and cut her eyes out. He grabbed the kid with bonnies guitar and cut his pulse instantly killing him as well to two last children sat in the corner terrified he slowly approached there was blood all over the insane man he cut off the childs hand that had foxys hook killing him as well and finally cut joshes hand pulse he smiled and laughed insanely he closed the door shut 5 dead bodies lay on the floor luckily marrionette was there to put the children in the suits to give them the gift of life~ i hope you enjoyed if u want mire relpy to mr buggy!