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The Lady and the Unicorn by Tracy Chevalier
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The Lady and the Unicorn (original 2003; edition 2004)

by Tracy Chevalier

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3,721951,404 (3.51)141
Member:amdrane2
Title:The Lady and the Unicorn
Authors:Tracy Chevalier
Info:Dutton Adult (2004), Edition: 1st, Hardcover, 250 pages
Collections:Read, Your library
Rating:****
Tags:historical

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The Lady and the Unicorn by Tracy Chevalier (2003)

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English (92)  Dutch (2)  Swedish (1)  Spanish (1)  All languages (96)
Showing 1-5 of 92 (next | show all)
Disappointing. The best thing about this book was how short it is (the only reason I finished). Again—as seems to be a pattern in my reading lately—I hated most of the main characters, and as much as I liked the premise built around those tapestries, I really don't feel like I would have missed anything by not reading it. I've read much better medieval fiction by Karen Cushman and Rebecca Barnhouse, and those were young adult books. ( )
  mirikayla | Feb 8, 2016 |
While it was an interesting story and I liked the way she developed the story line from different perspectives I really didn't care for most of the characters enough to love the book. ( )
  lkarr | Feb 6, 2016 |
The mystery surrounding the commission of the 6 Lady and the Unicorn tapestries is the groundwork for this novel. It is reported that they were ordered by a Parisian, Jean le Viste, a cold husband to Genvieve and disinterested father to their 3 daughters, Claude, Jean and petit Genvieve. When the artist, Nicolas des Innocents visits the le Viste home to measure for the tapestries he falls immediately in lust with the beautiful Claude. As he is a lowly painter and she is the daughter of a nobleman their love is forbidden.

The tapestries are to be woven in Brussels at the workshop of Georges de la Chappelle. Nicolas brings his paintings to Georges and upon meeting Georges' beautiful daughter Alienor Nicolas gets that lusty feeling once more. Alienor is a sweet, quiet girl who has been blind since birth. Her parents despair that she will never make a good marriage so they have promised her to a vile man who supplies the weaving trade with dyed wools. The young lady would rather become a nun than to marry this beastly man and she falls upon a plan to be sure that will never happen, with the lusty rogue Nicolas' help.

The story is told by a different character for several chapters each and that made for quite an enjoyable read to see the tale unfold from all their different perspectives. This is my first Chevalier and it definitely won't be my last. I never thought that I would enjoy historical fiction but this book has changed my mind
( )
  Ellen_R | Jan 15, 2016 |
The book cover initially caught my eye. It has two cut-outs, through which you can see the Lady and the Unicorn of the famous six Middle Ages tapestries upon which this historical fiction novel is based. The blurb on the back of the paperback says, "The Lady and the Unicorn is Tracy Chevalier's answer to the mystery behind one of the art world's great masterpieces.

Little is known of the background of the tapestries, but Chevalier has taken those bits of information and supposition and woven an imaginative tale about the creation of the tapestries around them. For example, they were likely woven in Flanders, the center of expertise in the millefleur style of that period (1480-1520), which is when the tapestries were likely made.

The story has multiple narrators: Nicolas des Innocents (ironic as he's not at all innocent), the (fictional) painter who designed the tapestries; Claude Le Viste and Genevieve de Nanterre, the (real) oldest daughter and wife of the wealthy Paris man who wanted the tapestries made; as well as the fictional weavers and and artist in Brussels who made them a reality: master weaver Georges de la Chapelle, his wife Christine du Sablon and daughter Alienor de la Chapelle, and the cartoon painter Philippe de la Tour.

Nicolas is a vain womanizer who probably sees himself as the unicorn (although it supposedly symbolizes Christ). The women in the story end up appearing in some of the tapestries, which each represent one of the five senses, plus a sixth called "À Mon Seul Désir" (To My One Desire). The book is fascinating with its detailed descriptions of the art and process of weaving, and Chevalier's story is clever. I liked the way she used the names of religious seasons (Lent, Easter, Whitsuntide, May Day, Septuagesima) to mark the passage of time over the two years it took to create the tapestries.

My paperback features six full-color plates with detail of the lady and the unicorn from each tapestry. The hardbound copy I got at the library for comparison does not have those plates, but underneath the dust jacket (with cutouts like the paperback has) is a reproduction of "À Mon Seul Désir" that wraps around to the back of the book.

© Amanda Pape - 2015

[I own my copy of this book. A longer version of this review appears on Bookin' It..] ( )
  riofriotex | Dec 8, 2015 |
Nice little story set around the making of a set of tapestries in the 1490s.
Read Apr 2005 ( )
  mbmackay | Dec 1, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 92 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (18 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Tracy Chevalierprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Hasselberger, RichardCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kirch, Eve L.Designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For my sister Kim
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The messenger said I was to come at once.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0452285453, Paperback)

If you think you wouldn't raise your skirts for a rakish legend about the purifying powers of a unicorn's horn, then maybe you aren't a 15th-century serving girl under the sway of a velvet-tongued court painter of ill repute. In keeping with her bestselling Girl with a Pearl Earring, and its Edwardian-era follow-up, Falling Angels, Tracy Chevalier's tale of artistic creation and late-medieval amours, The Lady and the Unicorn is a subtle study in social power, and the conflicts between love and duty. Nicolas des Innocents has been commissioned by the Parisian nobleman Jean Le Viste to design a series of large tapestries for his great hall (in real life, the famous Lady and the Unicorn cycle, now in Paris's Musee National du Moyen-Age Thermes de Cluny). While Nicolas is measuring the walls, he meets a beautiful girl who turns out to be Jean Le Viste's daughter. Their passion is impossible for their world--so forbidden, given their class differences, that its only avenue of expression turns out to be those magnificent tapestries. The historical evidence on which this story is based is slight enough to allow the full play of Chevalier's imagination in this cleverly woven tale. --Regina Marler

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:08:13 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

"A set of bewitching medieval tapestries hangs today in a protected chamber in Paris. They appear to portray a woman's seduction of a unicorn, but the story behind their making is unknown - until now." "Paris, 1490. A shrewd French nobleman commissions six lavish tapestries celebrating his rising status at Court. He hires the charismatic, arrogant, sublimely talented Nicolas des Innocents to design them. Nicolas creates havoc among the women in the house - mother and daughter, servant and lady-in-waiting - before taking his designs north to the Brussels workshop where the tapestries are to be woven." "There, master-weaver Georges de la Chapelle risks everything he has on finishing the tapestries - his finest, most intricate work - on time for his exacting French client. Ill-prepared for temptation and seduction, he and his family are consumed by the project and by their dealings with the full-blooded painter from Paris." "The results change all their lives - lives that have been captured in the tapestries, for those who know where to look."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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