by Tracy Chevalier
Have you ever seen the Lady and the Unicorn tapestries? I've only viewed reproductions of them in books, but I'd love to see them in person someday.
Tracy Chevalier here has woven a story about what inspired the creation of the tapestries- unknown to history. It's certainly not what I expected. In the very first pages the reader encounters the unsavory character of Nicolas des Innocents, the arrogant artist who designed the tapestries. He seems to only think of himself- how great his work is, or how much the ladies like him (even when they don't). Everywhere he goes, from the house of the nobleman who commissioned him to create the tapestry designs, or the workshop that wove the tapestries in Brussels, he's trying to seduce young women (and constantly causing problems). The story is told through the eyes of several different characters- the artist Nicolas, the wife of the nobleman (who convinced him to make unicorns, not a battle scene as her husband originally wanted), the daughter of Georges de la Chapelle who runs the tapestry workshop, and many other minor characters. It gives the reader a nice look at all the different types of people who were involved in the making of the tapestries, and the layers of social classes at the time. But it also kept me from really connecting to any of the characters, like I had in Girl with a Pearl Earring (which was told from one character's point of view and thus felt more intimate). Added to that the fact that I didn't really like any of the characters I mostly read the story with an idle curiosity to see what would happen, and out of interest in the tapestry work itself. Although that was hard to picture. At least one diagram of the loom described in the book would have made it easier to understand. So for me The Lady and the Unicorn was an nice enough read, interesting in some respects but in the end rather unsatisfying.
Rating: 3/5 ........ 250 pages, 2004
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