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The Dream Lover    by Elizabeth Berg order for
Dream Lover
by Elizabeth Berg
Order:  USA  Can
Random House, 2015 (2015)
Hardcover, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

In The Dream Lover, Elizabeth Berg moves back and forth in time, portraying different stages in the life of French nineteenth-century writer George Sand. She does a masterful job of it, making this early feminist walk off her pages to inhabit readers' lives and make them ponder their own loves and life choices.

Before she reinvented herself in Paris as George Sand, the famous author was young Aurore Dupin. She had a tumultuous childhood, moving back and forth between poverty with her mother and a life of wealth and entitlement at her grandmother's country estate of Nohant in central France. Indeed the story opens there in 1873 near the end of Sand's life, when she is clearly content and muses on 'the need to love. Without it, the rest is dust.'

Next we see her younger self in 1831, leaving her unloved husband Casimir and small children Maurice and Solange to follow her dream of becoming a writer in Paris and living there with her younger lover, Jules. Aurore and Casimir have agreed to alternate caring for the children. Aurore came of aristocratic stock on her father's side (his great-grandfather was a king of Poland), but her mother was a spirited and very passionate courtesan, whom her father eventually married, despite his own mother's vehement objections.

Individuals come and go in Aurore's life, driven by her need to love and be loved. She begins to dress as a man after joining the staff of Le Figaro - she is to review plays and only men can take the cheaper seats. She enjoys the 'expansive freedom, not to say power, in wearing men's clothes' and continues to do so. She has a good relationship with her son but a stormy one with her daughter - as she had had with her own mother, who was 'used to the attention and admiration of men.'

Then George Sand meets her soul mate, Marie Dorval, 'the sensation of the romantic theater, the brightest star of the Comédie-Francaise.' They become very close friends and, briefly, lovers. George has a troubled affair with a poet. Franz Liszt tells her that she tends 'toward the self-destructive' in her romantic relationships. She is happy for a time with Frédéric Chopin. And she finally comes full circle home to the estate her grandmother left her, Nohant.

Elizabeth Berg says in her Afterword that 'anyone who reads in depth about George Sand falls a little in love with her. I certainly did.' She makes that clear in her rich and empathetic portrayal of an extraordinary woman, who perhaps lived well before her time.

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