Thank you to LibraryThing and the author for providing this book in exchange for an honest review. This did not influence my review in any way.
Who is George Sand? Before I started this book I had no idea, and was lead to some moments of confusion when ‘George’ is referred to as a ‘she’. George Sand, successful 18th century author of romantic novels, was the pseudonym for Aurore Dudevant, nee Dupin, an aristocratic woman who suffers throughout her life with the constraints placed on women during those years. Forced into marriage with a man she doesn’t love, Aurore is on a search for a love that is lasting and true and this leads her to men and one woman companion outside the ties of her marriage while she fights for a divorce and essentially, the right to just be.
I haven’t read any of George Sand’s works, and I can’t say this book has led me to be as interested in them as much as I have become interested in the life of the woman behind George Sand herself. This was not about her works, and it is also not a biography. The author calls it ‘a work of fiction’, which it is, but it doesn’t know whether it such be a biography or a novel. At times it reads like both, which is not desirable if you are a reader who likes more structure. At times we get half a page of (fictitious) dialogue, but in other places we have pages of historical detail, not only about Aurore but also about the people surrounding her, including Napoleon, Alexandre Dumas (author of one of my favourite books, The Count of Monte Cristo), Victor Hugo (The Hunchback of Notre Dame) and the composer Frederic Chopin, as well as others whose names I didn’t know. Some context may be required if you’ve never done any historical reading, but I personally felt comfortable with it having read War and Peace earlier this year, as well as works from the above mentioned authors (although not George Sand herself).
While I did mostly enjoy this novel, one of the things that stuck out to me was that I had no idea how much time had passed between events. I had read quite a good chunk of the novel and from the language used I assumed her children, particularly Maurice, was at this point a young adult, when it turned out he was only twelve. Towards the end of the novel, a decade was recounted within a paragraph. There were also people who were referred to at the end of the novel as having been part of Sand’s life for a long time, such as her adopted daughter, but had not warranted a mention. I thought that Sand accepting another child into her household would have been mentioned between her numerous affairs?
And the affairs were numerous to the say the least! Which I found to be quite sad. Especially while she was not able to gain a divorce and had to live attached to her vile husband, another of those men who view women like possessions, and had limited freedom which she fought for and rightfully gained. Still she could not be satisfied, as the men she fraternized with were only interested in her money and only continually let her down in her search for the lasting love she wrote about in her romantic novels, limited even in her writing scope as to what she would be able to sell.
There is no happy ending here. Aurore did gain a divorce, but never found her true love and it can’t be said that she lived out her days in happiness, as she constantly seemed to be at war with family, friends or lovers, or defending herself and her actions to the media. We admire her now, and those who knew her did also, but she was also seen as a whore, passing from one man to another, as well as upholding a sexual relationship with her one female friend, Marie, which was more fulfilling than any of her relationships with men. But both women were married and also had continual flings with men on the side. I find it sad that no characters – people – ever ended up with someone to love who would love them in return, due to financial or other societal circumstances.
I found The Romances of George Sand to be an interesting look at an interesting woman’s life, and though I recognise that it was focused on the relationships throughout her life, I also would have liked to read more on her impact as a writer and a revolutionist. Aurore Dudevant was a remarkable woman and this book is a testament to that.
This review is also posted at Crash My Book Party. More reviews there!