The Virgin Blue by Tracy Chevalier, Paperback | Barnes & Noble
The Virgin Blue

The Virgin Blue

3.9 86
by Tracy Chevalier
     
 

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Meet Ella Turner and Isabelle du Moulin—two women born centuries apart, yet bound by a fateful family legacy. When Ella and her husband move to a small town in France, Ella hopes to brush up on her French, qualify to practice as a midwife, and start a family of her own. Village life turns out to be less idyllic than she expected, however, and a peculiar dream

Overview

Meet Ella Turner and Isabelle du Moulin—two women born centuries apart, yet bound by a fateful family legacy. When Ella and her husband move to a small town in France, Ella hopes to brush up on her French, qualify to practice as a midwife, and start a family of her own. Village life turns out to be less idyllic than she expected, however, and a peculiar dream of the color blue propels her on a quest to uncover her family’s French ancestry. As the novel unfolds—alternating between Ella’s story and that of Isabelle du Moulin four hundred years earlier—a common thread emerges that unexpectedly links the two women. Part detective story, part historical fiction, The Virgin Blue is a novel of passion and intrigue that compels readers to the very last page.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“A beautifully crafted story shot with vivid colors.” —The Times (London)

“Such an achievement for a serious writer that you feel it deserves an award.” —The Independent (London)

The Los Angeles Times
Where Chevalier shines is in her clean prose and her descriptions of rural French and Swiss life, then and now. — Michael Harris
People
As she did in her 2000 bestseller Girl With a Pearl Earring, Chevalier brings a distant time and place vividly alive.... Elegantly drawn.
August 18, 2003
Boston Globe
...a compelling page turner.
August 18, 2003
Publishers Weekly
Chevalier's clunky first novel, initially published in England in 1997, lacks the graceful literary intimacy of her subsequent runaway hit, Girl with a Pearl Earring. In split-narrative fashion, it follows a transplanted American woman in southwestern France as she connects through dreams with her distant Huguenot ancestors. The primary plot concerns the plight of Ella Turner, an insecure American midwife of French ancestry. Her architect husband, Rick, has been transferred from California to Toulouse, France, with Ella accompanying him. Often left alone, she becomes lonely and isolated, and when she decides it's time to have a baby, she begins dreaming of medieval scenes involving a blue dress. In alternating sections of the novel, these details are developed in a narrative about a 16th-century French farm girl and midwife, Isabelle du Moulin, and her eventual marriage to overbearing tyrant Etienne Tournier. Isabelle and Etienne belong to a vehemently anti-Catholic Calvinist sect that overthrows the village's cult of the Virgin, who is also known as La Rousse and depicted in paintings as red-haired and wearing a blue dress. Because of her own red hair and midwifery practice, Isabelle is suspected by her husband of witchcraft and punished accordingly. Ella, with the help of magnetic local librarian Jean-Paul, researches the lives of Isabelle and Etienne, trying to get to the bottom of her strange dreams. Chevalier tries hard to make Ella sympathetic, but her dissatisfaction with Rick is baffling, as is her attraction to the chauvinistic Jean-Paul. Equally difficult to swallow is the heavy-handed plot, which relies on jarring coincidences as it swerves unsteadily from past to present. (July) Forecast: Chevalier's name will guarantee her an audience, but the publication of this early work in an unassuming paperback edition is a wise choice. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Written well before her popular Girl with a Pearl Earring and previously published in England, this brilliant hybrid historical novel/contemporary romance/mystery has the signature Chevalier touches of fluid language, strong characters, and imaginative plotting. At loose ends after arriving in France with her architect husband, American midwife Ella Turner decides to research her elusive Huguenot ancestors, the Tourniers. Soon, however, her marriage founders (repeated encounters with an intriguing French librarian don't help), and Ella starts to have troubling dreams featuring the color blue. Flashbacks to the 16th century introduce Isabelle-also a midwife-who married into the Tournier family and is suspected by her rabidly anti-Catholic husband of continuing to worship the Virgin Mary. The punishment he finally exacts for her perceived crime is horrific. Fans of A.S. Byatt's Possession should enjoy this work, though it's Byatt with a soup on of Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery"; the startling ending, when all the (blue) threads are tied together, is not for the squeamish. This marvelous piece of writing firmly establishes Chevalier as a talent who's been worth watching. Highly recommended for both public and academic libraries.-Jo Manning, Miami Beach, FL Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A rich and quirky Chinese puzzle of sorts: a family saga turns into a mystery, then is finally revealed as a domestic drama about a young American living in France who finds her own life intersecting with the history of her ancestors in palpable and uncanny ways. Chevalier’s first novel (never before published here) is set in Lisle-sur-Tarn, a little French town that’s a long way from California, both geographically and culturally. But when Ella Turner’s husband Rick accepted a job in Toulouse, Ella chose picturesque and sleepy Lisle for their new home. It was an eerie choice, for it turns out that Ella’s ancestors—the Tourniers—had lived in Lisle until the 16th century. Ella tries to settle into her new surroundings with good grace—studying French, introducing herself to the locals, socializing with Rick’s colleagues—but she’s soon at loose ends. To begin with, she starts to have a recurring dream—a wordless image of vivid blue—that leaves her increasingly troubled. She also develops a persistent case of eczema, which her doctor suggests may be brought on by stress. What sort of stress? And she finds herself unable to make friends in Lisle. Her only real confidant is Jean-Paul, the town librarian who helps her to research her family history. With his guidance, Ella pieces together the saga of the Tourniers, Protestant Huguenots who had to flee France during the religious wars of the late 16th century. Their story takes on a personal significance for Ella, who discovers a picture by one of her ancestors in the local museum, painted in exactly the same shade of blue that she sees in her dream. Chevalier (Girl With a Pearl Earring , 2000, etc.) contrasts Ella’sinvestigations with chapters relating the adventures of ancestor Isabelle de Moulin Tournier, whose life parallels Ella’s in many ways. Soon Ella realizes she’s looking into her past out of something more than idle curiosity. A modest work of some skill, told with a minimum of melodrama and some good local color.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780452284449
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
06/24/2003
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
320
Sales rank:
128,631
Product dimensions:
5.00(w) x 7.70(h) x 0.90(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
“A beautifully crafted story shot with vivid colors.” —The Times (London)

“Such an achievement for a serious writer that you feel it deserves an award.” —The Independent (London)

Meet the Author

"I was born and grew up in Washington, DC. After getting a BA in English from Oberlin College (Ohio), I moved to London, England in 1984. I intended to stay 6 months; I’m still here.

"As a kid I’d often said I wanted to be a writer because I loved books and wanted to be associated with them. I wrote the odd story in high school, but it was only in my twenties that I started writing ‘real’ stories, at night and on weekends. Sometimes I wrote a story in a couple evenings; other times it took me a whole year to complete one.

"Once I took a night class in creative writing, and a story I’d written for it was published in a London-based magazine called Fiction. I was thrilled, even though the magazine folded 4 months later.

I worked as a reference book editor for several years until 1993 when I left my job and did a year-long MA in creative writing at the University of East Anglia in Norwich (England). My tutors were the English novelists Malcolm Bradbury and Rose Tremain. For the first time in my life I was expected to write every day, and I found I liked it. I also finally had an idea I considered ‘big’ enough to fill a novel. I began The Virgin Blue during that year, and continued it once the course was over, juggling writing with freelance editing.

"An agent is essential to getting published. I found my agent Jonny Geller through dumb luck and good timing. A friend from the MA course had just signed on with him and I sent my manuscript of The Virgin Blue mentioning my friend’s name. Jonny was just starting as an agent and needed me as much as I needed him. Since then he’s become a highly respected agent in the UK and I’ve gone along for the ride."

Tracy Chevalier is the New York Times bestselling author of six previous novels, including Girl with a Pearl Earring, which has been translated into thirty-nine languages and made into an Oscar-nominated film. Her latest novel is The Last Runaway. Born and raised in Washington, D.C., she lives in London with her husband and son.

Brief Biography

Hometown:
London, England
Date of Birth:
October 19, 1962
Place of Birth:
Washington, D.C.
Education:
B.A. in English, Oberlin College, 1984; M.A. in creative writing, University of East Anglia, 1994
Website:
http://www.tchevalier.com

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