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Monday, April 20, 2015

The Dream Lover by Elizabeth Berg

The Dream Lover by Elizabeth Berg
Published by Random House ISBN 978-0-8129-9315-8
Hardcover, $28, 361 pages

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.

rating 5 of 5

Thanks to TLC Tours for putting me on this tour. The rest of Elizabeth Berg's tour stops are here:
Monday, April 13th: Reading Reality
Monday, April 13th: Books on the Table 
Tuesday, April 14th: Let Them Read Books
Wednesday, April 15th: History from a Woman’s Perspective
Monday, April 20th: Bibliophilia, Please
Monday, April 20th: Bookchickdi
Tuesday, April 21st: Unabridged Chick
Tuesday, April 21st: The Novel Life
Wednesday, April 22nd: Books on the Table – Bookstore Event post
Wednesday, April 22nd: Kritter’s Ramblings
Thursday, April 23rd: Unabridged Chick – author Q&A
Monday, April 27th: Peeking Between the Pages
Tuesday, April 28th: Books a la Mode – author guest post
Wednesday, April 29th: Bibliotica
Thursday, April 30th: Life is Story
Monday, May 4th: Laura’s Reviews
Monday, May 4th: Book Babe
Wednesday, May 6th: Unshelfish
Monday, May 11th: Broken Teepee


  1. A 5 out of 5 rating for someone who doesn't normally like HF is pretty impressive. I enjoyed the audiobook of her Under a Starry Sky.

  2. I know a bit about Sand but not a great deal. This book - and her life - sounds completely fascinating! Thanks for being a part of the tour!