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The Dream Lover by Elizabeth Berg

The Dream Lover

by Elizabeth Berg

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I was very disappointed with this historical novel on the life of George Sand. I think Elizabeth Berg became so enraptured by Sand’s sexual exploits that she failed to see any other side of her. While Berg paints each affair as a great love and fills it with deep attachment and meaning for Sand, I think when a woman has that many attempts at “love” it is because she has not found it and is desperately searching. Of course, she labels Marie Dorval as her one and only true love, but there is no evidence that this is so. The person generally taken as her greatest love is Frederic Chopin, and he gets about three chapters toward the end that seem to skim over the relationship and make it seem no more significant than the insipid affair with Musset.

If this book is a true reflection of who George Sand really was, she was undeserving of the attention and praise she received in her lifetime. I have always found her intriguing and interesting, well, up to now. She assumed her pseudonym for the same reason many female writers of her time did...it was more likely she would be accepted as a man in the literary world. She began to dress as a man when she was employed by Le Figaro magazine to review the theater. While women were required to buy expensive box seats, men were allowed to stand in the cheaper section to watch the plays. She needed to see the play inexpensively. It was a way of achieving an end. The fact that she found herself accepted and treated differently when posing as a man caused her to enjoy and continue the practice.

I enjoyed the sections that dealt with Aurore’s childhood and the story of her parents’ fated love. I did not enjoy the way Berg switched between her childhood and her present. I found it abrupt and disorienting. I also felt that she failed to invest any personality into her characters, so that it seemed a bit too stand-offish to me. In fact, I could not help noticing passages such as this one:

During her visit, she and I got on famously, each of us deeply appreciative of the other not only for the ways in which we cared for Chopin but for each other’s beings. Something about our mutual regard restored Frederic’s spirits.

One moment he is “Chopin”, the next line he is “Frederic”. It was meant to be first person narrative, but it never felt that we were seeing things through her eyes. I think your lover, Chopin, would be Frederic to you, and Frederic to his sister...I could not see the logic in the switching back and forth, and that made those passages seem stilted and unnatural. This is only a small example of why I felt this book had no flow, but it is typical of what made it fraught with shortcomings for me.
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  phantomswife | Jul 6, 2018 |
I won my copy of this book through a Goodreads giveaway.

This was an interesting novel, based on the true story of the life of the author George Sand. Set in the early-mid 1800's this book does try to portray that era accurately, and Berg does a reasonable job at keeping modern language and attitudes out of her book, mostly. Still, I didn't feel like I was shadowing the mind of a woman from the 1830's-40's in reading this story (which is told from George Sand's perspective, alternating between her childhood and adulthood and progressing forward in time on both tracks). It felt more like a modern woman interpreting the attitudes of that era and acting, as in a stage drama. The story itself is engaging enough that it doesn't matter too much, but it was easy to forget that the story was in the 1800's. (I kept imagining more of an 1890's-1920's range while reading this book.)
I suppose the structure of this book, alternating between earlier and later parts of Sand's timeline, kept the story moving, but it got distracting toward the middle of the book. It was hard to stay immersed in the story with the timeline jumping back and forth so much.
Otherwise, this was a pretty good novel, and it seems to have been well researched. It is still clearly fiction, but a lot of factual information on George Sand is worked into the story, so you do learn quite a bit about the real person, even though this is not a straight biography. ( )
  JBarringer | Dec 30, 2017 |
In The Dream Lover we meet Aurore Dupin, or as she is better known George Sand. The book starts with her leaving her husband and her children for a life in Paris, but it will take a while before we will know what led her to the decision. The story in the book will take two roads. We will get to know her from her childhood parallel with her life in Paris as she seriously starts to write. The two parallel stories will towards the end merge into one.

It was a fascinating book. I didn't know that much about George Sands life before I read this book. I have seen Impromptu with Judy Davis and Hugh Grant some years ago, but I didn't know more than she had some famous lovers and liked to dress in men's clothing. So, I was quite intrigued by what a fascinating life she lived. I had some problems with the parallel storytelling, but mostly because I was pulled out of the story every time the story shifted from the past to the "present" and vice versa. Other than that it was a really good book, both well written and really interesting.

It kind of sometimes felt that most of her life Aurore/George was trying to find the "one love", she kept on going from relationship to relationship, but it wasn't until towards the end of her life that she finally found the peace she had searched after throughout her life. I think Franz Liszt was the one in the book that really hit the nail on the head when it came to George and her relationships: I fear that in your romantic relationship, you tend towards the self-destructive. You choose men because they need you, not because you love them. You begin in passion but move quickly to maternal feelings."

I enjoyed the book very much and I recommend it warmly!

I received this copy from the publisher through Netgalley in return for an honest review! ( )
  MaraBlaise | Dec 14, 2017 |
A special thank you to NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

The reviews for this book are all over the map, and my opinion is much of the same. Some of it I really liked, while other parts I skimmed through. Berg writes in first person, alternating between Sand's childhood, and almost present day (the time she decides to leave her husband for a life in Paris). I don't think the alternating between past and present each chapter was effective in that it was confusing at times and I wasn't sure the purpose. Berg could have easily done the story in two separate parts. What was interesting to me was her search for love and acceptance, with remarkable insights into her heart and brilliant mind.
( )
  GirlWellRead | Feb 25, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I had a really hard time getting into this book; I kept putting it down and picking it back up for over a year. Georges Sand's life sounded so interesting, but I was just plain bored with this novel. I never engaged with any of the underdeveloped characters and cared nothing about them. I've seen several films based on the affair between Sand and Chopin and was hoping that at least that section would be satisfying, but, alas, it was not. I can appreciate that Berg was trying something different here, both in subject and in style, but it simply did not work. I'm just relieved that I can finally put it in the book donation box. ( )
  Cariola | Nov 14, 2016 |
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"George Sand was a 19th century French novelist known not only for her novels but even more for her scandalous behavior. After leaving her estranged husband, Sand moved to Paris where she wrote, wore men's clothing, smoked cigars, and had love affairs with famous men and an actress named Marie. In an era of incredible artistic talent, Sand was the most famous female writer of her time. Her lovers and friends included Frederic Chopin, Gustave Flaubert, Franz Liszt, Eugene Delacroix, Victor Hugo, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and more. In a major departure, Elizabeth Berg has created a gorgeous novel about the life of George Sand, written in luminous prose, with exquisite insight into the heart and mind of a woman who was considered the most passionate and gifted genius of her time"--… (more)

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