Monday, July 25, 2011

BOOK: The Virgin Blue by Tracy Chevalier

The Virgin Blue by Tracy Chevalier, 304 pages

Paris in July

This book gave me the best of both French worlds - life in mid 1500s during some religious strife, and life in a present day small village. Parallel stories as Ella Turner, a transplanted American arrives with her husband and begins to trace her ancestors and Isabelle du Moulin, four hundred years earlier, deals with her in-laws, and the battle between the Huguenots and the Catholics. These two women seem to have some connection, and as the story progresses, their stories become more and more entwined.

I really liked the historical half of the story and learned a lot about the role of Calvin and the Reformation in France. Isabelle married into a family partially against her will and battled for herself and her children. It wasn't easy being a woman in 1572. Ella, the modern woman was a kind of strange character, and I found some of her choices and decisions odd. She struck me as selfish and self-centered, rather immature. She seemed too young to be having a life crisis and like a junior high kid worried about how people were looking at her. The French characters she met as she delved into her ancestors were better drawn.

So while Ella was a silly twit, the parallel style of writing, back and forth between Isabelle and Ella was very effective. This was Chevalier's first novel, and her style has progressed. I loved her other books I've read, Girl With Pearl Earring and The Lady and the Unicorn both of which just stayed with the historical aspect. The Virgin Blue was still a decent read, perfect for Paris in July, other than selfish Ella, but the way she brought the two stories together was compelling. I'm a fan of Chevalier and look forward to her other historical books, Burning Bright (William Blake and English history) , Falling Angels (Edwardian history and suffragettes) , and Remarkable Creatures (fossil hunting in 18th century England).