Elizabeth Berg's The Dream Lover is the story of George Sand: French novelist, protofeminist, and inamorata to some of history's leading men.
I must admit that I haven't read Sand's work. I actually, and this is outright embarrassing, had only learned of her after watching a movie based on her relationship with Frederic Chopin. You know, the film with a young Hugh Grant as a sickly Chopin? Yep, I totally had a thing for him (Grant) as a teenager, and was also obsessed with Chopin, so she was really just a side note. Whatever. So I basically knew that these two had gotten busy together and that she wore men's clothing but that was about it. Pathetic.
This novel delves into the life of George Sand beginning with her parents ill-suited match, adding color to her formative years. Assuming that much of the novel is based on biographies of the writer, there's much to be learned, or at the very least, researched after finishing the book. I had no idea she was close friends with some of her more well-known literary, male contemporaries. The atmosphere was lovely and I was instantly transported to the busy streets of Paris, or the idyllic, lush countryside of her family estate at Nohant. It was the perfect companion for escaping the everyday life for an hour or so.
That being said, I didn't entirely love this novel. As of late, I've felt that many narrators in historical novels sound eerily similar, and this one was no different. Is this just me?! Anyway, the beginning seemed promising, as we learn of Sand's family background, of her relationship with a grandmother who means the best but demands the rigid etiquette of post-revolutionary France, which paves the way for George and her exciting life ahead. However, the moments where the reader is forced, suddenly, into George's present day life, consists of being fed exacting play-by-plays of her deteriorating relationships with lovers and her inability to write without them. It was something along the lines of, "and then I started seeing x, but it just didn't work after I caught him with z, so we broke it off." Every. Time. And the woman falls in love with like every dude (and maybe one lady) she meets. Ok, ok, so maybe that's just how she operated so I can't really fault the book for that, but the jump from one summary of a lover to the next was boring and didn't offer anything substantial in terms of character development. I really longed to get back to Nohant and watch her grow.
At the end of the day, I would recommend this book to friends who love historical fiction and want to read about a pioneering lady figure. It's perfect for getting swept away to a different time and place, especially imagining being apart of the literary circles of Paris at this time. And I'll admit that I did learn a lot about her life, even though this work was fiction, as it prompted me to research her life past the pages. I'll definitely be adding Sand's work to my TBR moving forward.
Read this title? Share your thoughts! I'd love suggestions of other historical fiction to add to the TBR, as well!
*I received an advanced reader's copy of this title from Random House through Netgalley.com in exchange for an honest review.
Shame on me. I got an ARC of this novel months ago and am just now getting around to saying a thing or two about it. Honestly, with the conversation about the novel over at The Socratic Salon is it even necessary for me to review?
Yeah, I guess I'll still add my two cents.
Anna Benz is an American expat living in Switzerland with her Swiss husband, Bruno, and their three children. Anna's life is, to put it bluntly, monotonous, and she's drowning in depression. Add a couple of affairs to the mix and she's basically a train wreck you can't help but watch.
I'm just going to come right out and say that I hated Hausfrau initially. And I honestly don't think I'd go back and reread. However, if you've taken the time to review the conversation over at The Socratic Salon (expect spoilers), you might have totally different feelings going into it/another read. Anyway, back to my thoughts... I found Anna insufferable (p.s. there are plenty of novels I've loved that didn't have the most loving protagonist). And while much of her story relies on her actions caused by very apparent mental health issues, I found she lacked something that prompted any sympathy on my part. I know there are readers who will condemn this review for even saying it, and I also know that everyone deals with depression in their own way, but there were too many things about Anna that seemed too selfish and reckless to overlook despite these problems. Her allusions to her life prior to moving to Switzerland, a place she very much feels out of place but doesn't assert herself to counter, suggested that she had always suffered in some way but simply went along with it rather than acknowledge it. Furthermore, you have to imagine that Bruno and Anna were happy at some time, but those memories never surface. With that being said, I do understand that someone as depressed as Anna wouldn't necessarily be recalling those moments, but it was still infuriating to see her subconsciously recognize her problem and then bring three children into the world. And let's not even talk about Bruno, ok? That guy. Ugh. Anyway, I was a little peeved with the fact that she had waited so long to seek help, and then finally did but visited a Jungian therapist who seemed to never actually get anywhere with her or be asking her questions that would actually matter. I can't claim to know anything about Jungian psychology, so I'll leave it at that, but I will warn readers that there are whole pages dedicated to Anna at her appointments where the Jungian analysis bored me to no end. FYI: I loved the idea of psychology courses in college but actually hated them once enrolled so maybe I'm not the best judge.
I'm going to say read it if you like Jungian psychology, if you enjoy graphic scenes of what seems like painful sex, if you want to feel like you're in a Swiss village, if you love a good twist, if you're into watching someone basically destroy their future. I'm being dramatic. While Hausfrau certainly won't be regarded one of my reads of the year, Essbaum has a way with words, and her characters are believable. You might not love Anna, but you'll at least hope that she can find something to help make her whole by the end of it.
Moment of Truth
I definitely requested this book because of the cover art. LOOK AT IT! So beautiful. You're free to judge me now. P.S. You can watch the coolest video of the design process for this title: Illustrated Hausfrau Video
Man oh man I've missed blogging, or book blogging, because I guess I do a little bit of blogging on my site bethpriddy.com/blog. Only that's mostly photography work, or ALL photography work, and it's just NOT the same as discussing what I love and don't love about my current reads.
I'm actually reading again. And a lot. I'm also engaging more in the book community after a long absence and it feels so good.
I don't expect anyone to read this and I probably won't go crazy with promoting for readership. I just need a place to compose short little reviews on books based on why I did or did not like them. Moving forward it'll be less in-depth analysis of the books, and more short write-ups on what moved me or made me cringe with each read. I'm never going to tell someone NOT to read a book, because it could be their main jam, so this seems like a good middle ground.
Thanks to all the beautiful bloggers who have welcomed me back on Twitter; you guys are the best!
It's hard to believe that I started this blog shortly before my 26th birthday. It seems like a lifetime ago. I seem like a completely different person. Reading posts and viewing pictures shows growth that is never actually tangible until it's all out there to view from start to finish. I like it.
I've been asked by nearly everyone I know how I feel about reaching 30, about leaving my twenties and becoming something that, I want to say, is more grownup. I never have an answer. Or I usually just say, "hmm, I don't really know." I understand the connotation: it's more a question of "how are you dealing with getting old(er)?"
I guess I should respond with something like frightened. Or maybe sad. But, honestly, I'm going with thankful. Yes, I'm thankful to have reached 30, to have spent thirty years with my parents love, to have had the opportunity to witness all the world has to offer and to have occasionally gone out there and taken part, to have met a partner who complements me, to have become an aunt to four amazing kiddos, and to have finally found something I can do that generates income while also feeding my soul.
There are, of course, things I wish I had done in the years leading up to this milestone. I should have saved more, I should have spent less, I should have taken more opportunities, been out in the world instead of stuck in my little corner (hello, 22-year-old Beth), handled difficult situations better, and on and on. However, going back in time isn't a reality, so there's not much I can do except strive to do all these things moving forward. I won't say these are regrets. I've moved past the age where I let my regrets overwhelm me because there's no benefit in ruminating on something I know I could have handled better. My early twenties were terrible. I did well in college but got caught up in things and people I should have avoided from the start. I barely made it through that time, both physically and emotionally, and I can only say that I'd never choose to relive those years.
So generally, when people ask me how I feel, I honestly want to say that I'm happy about the inevitable prospect. I like thirty-year-old Beth. She's mature, isn't so self-conscience, is ready to jump into a big project and fight to get it off the ground, she's done worrying about everything, and she understands herself more than ever. And while I've made hugh improvements as a person, I still feel that my life should be led with more purpose. Less immediate gratification. More work. Less expecting things to happen. More simply. Less consumer-driven. I could go on and on. I need to work for health and happiness and living in the present, for me, right now. Those are my goals for 30 and beyond. I had dreams prior to this point of creating a great big list of 30 items before 30 and marking them off one by one. I love those lists, but just never sat myself down and did it. So instead of a list, I'm going to be more purposeful and use this written proclamation as a reminder that I need to work to get what I want and to prioritize goals that will matter when I look back 30 years from now... you know, when everyone's asking me about how I feel about turning 60.
Ahhh... to be surrounded by those mountains again.
What are you dreaming of today?