The Dream Lover by bestselling author Elizabeth Berg is the fictionalized historical account of George Sand: one of the most influential and subversive female writers in France during the 19th century. Sand, born Amantine-Lucile-Aurore Dupin, not only published novels and articles at a time when women were primarily confined to household living, but she did so in plain view of the public, often cross dressing as a man, smoking cigars and engaging in open love affairs with some of the most prominent artists of her time. In her own novel, Berg both draws from historical records and adds some of her own flair as she traces Sand’s life from early childhood until past her own death.
Sand traverses the years of her own life as the book’s narrator offering us only her single perspective. In this way, Berg often leaves conspicuously gaping holes in the thoughts and actions of Sand’s friends, family and lovers. As readers, all we have is Sand’s word that the events she recounts have happened in the way that she claims they have happened, but there are always parts of the story that seem missing. There are always things that we as readers are compelled to fill in, imagine, and understand, things that the character Sand perhaps does not want to fully admit to herself more than anyone else.
In this way, Berg points directly to an issue that she encountered during her research of Sand’s life. In Sand’s own autobiography, as well as in the historical records detailing the writer’s life, Berg notes there are major discrepancies in terms of dates, names and places associated with the famed writer. Berg took these discrepancies and did what she could with them: told them from a point of view. A point of view that Berg explains in the afterward of The Dream Lover, is not rooted in pure fact; rather, it is a mix of the real and imagined truths that she unearthed while steeped in her research. This marriage of fact and fiction as form is echoed in Sand’s narration, as we often wonder how much of what she is telling us in imagined in a certain ways and stretched from the hard facts to suit her wildly imaginative and romantic mindset.
These discrepancies also mirror the ambivalences inherent in Sand’s own persona. Though Sand’s activities and lifestyle were controversial to say the least, there was evidence in her own writing, as well as testaments from her friends, that credited her with having a love for domesticity and for her children. Further, Sand, despite her fun-loving nature and energetic attitude, was known to suffer from depression and a pervasive sense of restlessness, which Berg translates seamlessly into her text. Berg aptly captures all of the contradictory elements of Sand’s nature and portrays her as a woman with ambition, doubt and talent, as a woman of love, hatred and anger.
Through and through, The Dream Lover reads at a fast-paced gallop, leaping through time and space to tell the most apt parts of this heroine’s life, all while mixing love, passion and longing in just the right amounts.
Set to be published by Random House in April 2015, The Dream Lover: A Novel of George Sand is available for pre-order from your local bookstore.
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FTC Disclaimer: I received this book from NetGalley for a fair and honest review of the text.