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The lady and the unicorn
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Fiction/Biography Profile
2004 - Romantic Times Reviewers' Choice Award for Best Historical Fiction
Nicolas des Innocents (Male), Artist, Miniaturist; womanizer; opportunist; irresponsible
Jean Le Viste (Male), Married, Father, Wealthy, Ambitious, Genevieve's husband; social climber; commissions Nicolas to create a set of war tapestries
Genevieve De Nanterre (Female), Married, Mother, Jean's wife; pious
Claude (Female), Genevieve's daughter; headstrong
Georges de la Chapelle (Male), Weaver, Married, Father, Christine's husband; master weaver
Christine du Sablon (Female), Married, Mother, Georges's wife
Alienor (Female), Blind, Georges and Christine's daughter
Beatrice (Female), Lady-in-waiting, Serves Genevieve and Claude
Marie-Celeste (Female), Servant, Pregnant, Pregnant by Nicolas; servant in the house of Jean le Viste
Textile industry
Forbidden love
Artistic expression
Paris, France - Europe
Brussels, Belgium - Europe
Time Period
-- Late 15th century
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Trade Reviews

  Library Journal Review

Chevalier (Girl with the Pearl Earring) has once again taken artworks beautiful beyond words and woven them into an enchanting novel. Adding to the audio weave are the masculine (read by Robert Blumenfeld) and feminine voices (performed by Terry Donnelly) and wonderful touches used to create tension as the somewhat slow story moves along. Most importantly, Chevalier deftly plays on the legend of the unicorn laying its head in the virgin's lap, as artist Nicolas des Innocents uses the myth to entice women to surrender their maidenhood. While nothing is known of the person who really designed these tapestries, the novel presents a convincing portrait based on period documents. Informative and enchanting, this is highly recommended for all libraries.-Rochelle Ratner, formerly with Soho Weekly News, New York (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

  Publishers Weekly Review

Chevalier, whose bestselling Girl with a Pearl Earring showed how a picture can inspire thousands of words, yokes her limpid, quietly enthralling storytelling to the six Lady and the Unicorn tapestries that hang in the Museum of the Middle Ages in Paris. As with her Vermeer novel, she takes full creative advantage of the mystery that shrouds an extraordinary collaborative work of art. Building on the little that is known or surmised-in this case that the tapestries were most likely commissioned by the French noble Jean Le Viste and made in a workshop in Brussels at the end of the 15th century-she imagines her way into a lost world. We are introduced to Nicholas des Innocents, the handsome, irrepressibly seductive artist who designed the works for the cold Le Viste, a rich, grim social climber who bought his way into the nobility and cares more about impressing the king and his court than pleasing the wife who has disappointed him by bearing three girls and no sons. Le Viste's wife, Genevi?ve, tells Nicholas to create scenes with a unicorn but Nicholas's love of women-and especially of Genevi?ve's beautiful daughter Claude-inspires the extraordinary faces and gestures of the women he depicts. A great romance unfolds. What makes the tale enthralling are the details Chevalier offers about the social customs of the time and, especially, the craft of weaving as it was practiced in Brussels. There are psychological anachronisms: would a young woman in medieval times express her pent-up frustrations by cutting herself as some teenage girls do today? Yet the genuine drama Chevalier orchestrates as the weavers race to complete the tapestries, and the deft way she herself weaves together each separate story strand, results in a work of genuine power and beauty. And yes, readers will inevitably think about what a gorgeous movie this would make. (Jan.) Forecast: If any of Chevalier's novels has a chance to match the success of Girl with a Pearl Earring, it's this one. Expect it to rise fast on bestseller lists. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Bewitching art experts and enthusiasts alike for centuries, the Lady and the Unicorn tapestries hang today in the Cluny Museum in Paris.In each, an elegant lady and a unicorn stand or sit on an island of grass surrounded by a rich background of animals and flowers. Little is known about them except that they were woven toward the end of the fifteenth century and bear the coat of arms of a wealthy family from Lyons.Tracy Chevalier takes readers back to the tapestries’ creation, giving life to the men who designed and made them, as well as the wives, daughters, and servants who exercised subtle (and not so subtle) influences over their men. Like the many different strands of wool and silk that were woven together into one cloth, the lives and fates of these people entwine in complex patterns, crisscrossing as they seek desires sensual and spiritual, temporal and eternal.An extraordinary story exquisitely told, Tracy Chevalier’s The Lady and the Unicornweaves history and fiction into a beautiful, timeless, and intriguing literary tapestry that rivals in grace and grandeur the masterpiece that inspired it.
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