Disclaimer: I received this book from Penguin’s First To Read programme.
I have never read any of George Sand’s books, and know little about her life. Perhaps her writing was too risque for young minds, and then avoided by those who did not study literature at university. So I came to the book with an open mind, and my lack of knowledge made Elizabeth Berg’s “The DreamLover” a pleasant introduction to a very remarkable writer.
The novel opens with George Sand leaving her husband, certainly a fateful day in real life and an intriguing point to begin a novel. For the first half of the book, the story is presented as intertwined narratives of Sand's childhood and her new life as a woman of letters, a woman with a small fortune who could afford the luxury of writing. After the two story lines merge, the remainder of the novel focuses on Sand’s career and her continuous quest to find love.
The contrast between a desire for female emancipation and a desire for romantic love is well presented in fictional form. George Sand might have been a feminist, but her numerous affairs as shown in “The Dream Lover” create a character of great depth. The complexity of Sand’s emotions makes for a compelling read as she searches for some impossible ideal in a man, the dream lover of the title. I am guessing that some of the action portrayed was based on Sand's own novels, in the guise of a writer writing what she knows. You may feel motivated to pick up one of her early novels and see for yourself. Or at any rate, to see how all the sex was hinted at in French literature of the 1830s and 1840s.
There is more than enough name dropping to thrill the literati, with appearances by Flaubert, Delacroix, and Chopin, among others. And then there is the actress Marie Dorval, who may have had a romantic entanglement with George Sand in real life, and enjoys a very brief affair in this piece of historical fiction.
Unfortunately, the novel loses steam in the end. Following the defeat of the Communards in 1848, and Sand's own advancing age, the pursuit of love came to an end and so too did the driving force behind the novel. A reader will see that Sand's emotional outlook matured as she aged, and the closing chapters plod along as if waiting for Sand to die.
All in all, the book is well worth reading for fans of historical fiction.