Sunday, February 28, 2010

Read 52 Books in 52 Weeks: The Lady and the Unicorn

Historical fiction, if it is well written, is my favorite genre, and this selection did not disappoint.  Set in France and Flanders in the late fifteenth century, The Lady and the Unicorn is a superb tale about the making of a set of tapestries.  The storyline gives a rich and richly detailed look at the lives of nobles, artists, weavers, and servants.  Tracy Chevalier, who also wrote Girl with a Pearl Earring, is a master at creating incredibly evocative characters and scenes, a skill crucial to historical fiction.

Her characters are especially vividly drawn; each chapter is told in a different character's voice (some characters get more than one chapter), so the reader shares in his or her thoughts and motivations.  For me, this makes the narrative even more satisfying.  One caveat: due to some bawdy references and conduct, the book is suited to an adult audience.

I was gratified to learn in the "Notes and Acknowledgments" section that, even though the story is fiction, the tapestries themselves are not.  They have been restored and hang in the Musee National du Moyen Age in Paris.  Here is a link to information and photos of the Lady and the Unicorn tapestries.  By clicking on each image, you will learn about that specific tapestry and what it depicts.  I found this fascinating.

The Lady and the Unicorn packs a powerful punch.  Not only is it wonderfully well written, its educational value is excellent.


  1. I agree with you, that's my favorite genre too. I'll take not of your recommendation, I love the topic, and I like that change of voice too. I remember Dracula written like this, which I unexpectedly enjoyed (I did not think I'd like a book on vampires, but it's not anything like the new wave of vampire books).

  2. Silvia, I agree with you about Dracula. I haven't read any of the new wave of vampire books, so I can't compare. My perception is that more contemporary novels glorify vampires as an "other," while Stoker's novel does not. Even the movie supposedly based on the novel (and parts of it were accurate) put somewhat of a positive spin on vampirism, with Mina wanting to join the Count. But I particularly remember Mina's moanings of "Unclean, unclean!" in the novel. Thanks for your comments!

  3. Hi, you have a very cool blog, which I found accidentally, but I'm glad I did.


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