‘Enormously enjoyable’ Evening Standard
‘Charming’ The Times
‘What would you have me paint instead of a battle, Madame?’
Geneviève de Nanterre’s eyes gleamed.
Keen to demonstrate his new-found favour with the King, rising nobleman Jean le Viste commissions six tapestries to adorn the walls of his château. He expects soldiers and bloody battlefields. But artist Nicolas des Innocents instead designs a seductive world of women, unicorns and flowers, using as his muses Le Viste’s wife Geneviève and ripe young daughter Claude.
In Belgium, as his designs spring to life under the weavers’ fingers, Nicolas is inspired once more – by the master weaver’s daughter Aliénor and her mother Christine. They too will be captured by his threads.
‘Beautifully written, I could not put it down… a tale of ambition, lust, betrayal and heartbreak…a compelling and enormously enjoyable work' Evening Standard
‘On the academic front, here is the old Chevalier, exact and guarded, accurate and self-contained…On the erotic front, she positively explodes, the shy smiles of Pearl Earring replaced by a terrific torrent of carnal imagery, every sense invoked and appetite exploited’ Guardian
'Tracy Chevalier gives the kiss of life to the historical novel' Independent
‘With great insight, invention and a remarkable eye for detail, Chevalier breathes life into artists and artisans, their subjects and surroundings and, most important, their magnificent creations’ Washington Post
‘The story she weaves is as lush as the tapestries she describes, and her colorful characters leap off the page. A romantic, beautiful book’ Booklist
About the author
Tracy Chevalier is the author of six novels, including the international bestseller Girl with a Pearl Earring, Remarkable Creatures, The Virgin Blue, Falling Angels, and The Lady and the Unicorn. Born in Washington, DC, she moved to London in 1984, where she lives with her husband and son. She has a website at www.tchevalier.com.
Chevalier, whose bestselling Girl with a Pearl Earring showed how a picture can inspire thousands of words, yokes her limpid, quietly enthralling storytelling to the six Lady and the Unicorn tapestries that hang in the Museum of the Middle Ages in Paris. As with her Vermeer novel, she takes full creative advantage of the mystery that shrouds an extraordinary collaborative work of art. Building on the little that is known or surmised in this case that the tapestries were most likely commissioned by the French noble Jean Le Viste and made in a workshop in Brussels at the end of the 15th century she imagines her way into a lost world. We are introduced to Nicholas des Innocents, the handsome, irrepressibly seductive artist who designed the works for the cold Le Viste, a rich, grim social climber who bought his way into the nobility and cares more about impressing the king and his court than pleasing the wife who has disappointed him by bearing three girls and no sons. Le Viste's wife, Genevi ve, tells Nicholas to create scenes with a unicorn but Nicholas's love of women and especially of Genevi ve's beautiful daughter Claude inspires the extraordinary faces and gestures of the women he depicts. A great romance unfolds. What makes the tale enthralling are the details Chevalier offers about the social customs of the time and, especially, the craft of weaving as it was practiced in Brussels. There are psychological anachronisms: would a young woman in medieval times express her pent-up frustrations by cutting herself as some teenage girls do today? Yet the genuine drama Chevalier orchestrates as the weavers race to complete the tapestries, and the deft way she herself weaves together each separate story strand, results in a work of genuine power and beauty. And yes, readers will inevitably think about what a gorgeous movie this would make.
Lady and unicorn
My favourite chevalier novel fantastic! Highly recommended!