Book Review: The Lady and the Unicorn by Tracy Chevalier

lady and the unicornThe Lady and the Unicorn by Tracy Chevalier
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Paris, 1490.  A shrewd French nobleman commissions six lavish tapestries celebrating his rising status at Court. He hires the charismatic, arrogant, sublimely talented Nicolas des Innocents to design them. Nicolas creates havoc among the women in the house—mother and daughter, servant, and lady-in-waiting—before taking his designs north to the Brussels workshop where the tapestries are to be woven. There, master weaver Georges de la Chapelle risks everything he has to finish the tapestries—his finest, most intricate work—on time for his exacting French client. The results change all their lives—lives that have been captured in the tapestries, for those who know where to look.

Yet another of Tracy Chevalier’s historical fiction books, and allows her to demonstrate the differences in social power and the conflicts between love and duty. Similar to The Girl with the Pearl Earring, there is a certain luciousness brought to the story by Chevalier.

Nicolas des Innocents has been commissioned by the Parisian nobleman Jean Le Viste to design a series of large tapestries for his great hall (in real life, the famous Lady and the Unicorn cycle, now in Paris’s Musee National du Moyen-Age Thermes de Cluny). While Nicolas is measuring the walls, he meets a beautiful girl who turns out to be Jean Le Viste’s daughter. Given their class differences, their passion for each other is impossible for their world–so forbidden, its only avenue of expression turns out to be the magnificent tapestries.

 

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