Born Amantine-Lucile-Aurore Dupin in 1804, she lived by her own rules, and her imagined voice—warm, sincere, and wise—is wonderfully disarming. As Sand examines her past, from her tense relationships with blood relations through her unhappy marriage and subsequent flight to independence in Paris, we’re introduced to this fascinating woman.
Berg’s descriptive skills are remarkable throughout, but Sand’s actions are too often reported from a distance rather than dramatized. This memoir-like style lets us learn about and admire Sand without placing us in the moment with her. There are exceptions, though, such as her scenes with actress Marie Dorval—her deepest, most passionate attachment—and her philosophical reflections on her continued search for love. It’s at these times that her story feels most immediate and alive.
The Dream Lover is published on April 14th by Random House (hardcover, $28, 368pp). It appears on the LibraryReads list for April. This review first appeared in Booklist's Feb 15th issue.
The novel is being heavily promoted, and the packaging is gorgeous. The flourishes on the image above are a little less prominent on the real thing, and her hair blends in more with the dark background. From the moment I first saw it, I wondered if the image was a softened version of German artist Joseph Karl Stieler's portrait of Nanette Kaula, which appears in Ludwig I's Gallery of Beauties. The jacket doesn't say, but based on the listed source for the painting, it's possible.