The Lady and the Unicorn

The Lady and the Unicorn

by Tracy Chevalier
3.9 61

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The Lady and the Unicorn by Tracy Chevalier

A tour de force of history and imagination, The Lady and the Unicorn is Tracy Chevalier’s answer to the mystery behind one of the art world’s great masterpieces—a set of bewitching medieval tapestries that hangs today in the Cluny Museum in Paris. They appear to portray the seduction of a unicorn, but the story behind their making is unknown—until now.

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.

In The Lady and the Unicorn, Tracy Chevalier weaves fact and fiction into a beautiful, timeless, and intriguing literary tapestry—an extraordinary story exquisitely told.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781101213186
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 12/28/2004
Sold by: Penguin Group
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 105,839
File size: 1 MB
Age Range: 18 Years

About 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.


London, England

Date of Birth:

October 19, 1962

Place of Birth:

Washington, D.C.


B.A. in English, Oberlin College, 1984; M.A. in creative writing, University of East Anglia, 1994

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Lady and the Unicorn 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 61 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was very pleasantly surprised when I picked up this book. I knew the author from the prior Virgin Blue, but I wasn't expecting to quickly become as absorbed as I did. The book is amazingly detailed and in turn a fascinating world is created.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Absorbing and colorful. The author has a wonderful talent for historical writing.Her grasp of the arts and how they were achieved back then was excellent. The characters were clear and interesting, keeping me reading all night long. I cannot wait for the author's next book!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Having recently visited the Cluny Museum and viewed the beautiful tapestries which are the true stars of this story, I was especially eager to read Ms. Chevalier's latest novel. I was not disappointed in this tale of the lusty, handsome artist commissioned to design the tapestries for a wealthy patron who has more interest in making a fine impression than in works of art. With the skill of a fine weaver, the author creates a stunning tale through her use of interwoven points of view. The setting is five hundred years ago, yet it is easy to identify with the characters' hopes, dreams, and disappointments. The descriptions of the ongoing process of creating a magnificent and intricate tapestry at a time when everything was done painstakingly by hand are fascinating. This is a wonderful story that once started is very, very difficult to put down.
karen978 More than 1 year ago
I love Tracy Chevalier. I love how she imagines what went on and who the extraneous characters would be. The Lady and the Unicorn was yet another wonderful story with rich detail and interesting characters. Can't wait for the next book.
TheCrowdedLeaf More than 1 year ago
My initial assessment of The Lady and the Unicorn remained true throughout the rest of the book: It was alright, but not the good piece of historical fiction I was expecting. The best parts were when we're taken to Brussels (home of the lissier and his family) and get inside the heads of the people who live there. Alienor was my favorite character, she's charming, stubborn, sympathetic, and independant. She makes her own future to save herself from a dismal life with a man she cannot stand. She is the true central part of this book, but she doesn't emerge until a third of the way through. If it had been more about her and her family, I think I would have liked it better. We're intially introduced to Jean Le Viste and his family; his daughter Claude is one of the main characters in the beginning, but a) she's not very likeable, and b) she disappears for the whole middle section of the book and only surfaces briefly once before the very end. Additionally, the character of Nicolas has some motivational problems. On one hand, he's an arogant, cheap womanizer who seduces anything with breasts and can't wait to "plow" Claude in her fathers house. On the other, he's a likeable, charming, struggling painter who saves Alienor from a life of misery. Make up your mind, fellow. I felt that the language was a little too obnoxious at parts, especially with the times of prayers and the holidays. Sext, May Day, Ascension Day, Candlemas? These mean nothing to me so it's hard to tell what the real passing of time is. I understand they're part of the language, so I got over it, but toward the end they resurfaced a lot. And the characters voices and language when they were talking to each other also seemed unrealistic at times. There's a clear plot device (petite Claude) that is meant to shock the reader; but we're not stupid and it falls flat. Overall, I wasn't a fan, nor was I wholly disappointed with this book. It wouldn't be the first one I'd recommed, but I've read worse. I'd give it 2 1/2 stars out of 5.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was impressed and utterly engrossed in Chevalier's book. She is a true storyteller, possessing a wonderful gift to weave a story from a topic of which little is known. Her characters are exceptionally real-- amusing, infuriating, beautiful. I also enjoy the reality of her stories since so many these days end so perfectly.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was great. I have tapestry of 'Taste' in my house, so i was quite absorbed by the book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
In 1490, having purchased his way into the aristocracy, French nobleman Jean Le Viste, feeling self-important, tries to further impress the King and his court on how worthy a person he is. He commissions artist Nicholas des Innocents to design tapestries for Le Viste. Jean¿s disappointing spouse, a failure for begetting three girls and no male heirs, wants unicorns as the stars............................................. However Nicholas finds his patron¿s daughter Claude as the inspiration for the work as he and she fall in love. However, her social climbing father would never allow his daughter to have anything to do with an artisan. Jean takes the drawings to Brussels where the drawings are converted into six lush six tapestries depicting a Lady and the Unicorn.......................................... On the surface THE LADY AND THE UNICORN seems like a repeat of the invigorating GIRL WITH A PEARL EARRING that used a masterpiece to tell the story of the model that posed for the painting, but that is not really the case here. Though Tracy Chevalier uses the real tapestries hanging in the Museum of the Middle Ages in Paris, she paints a different story. This time a fabulous romance for the ages serves as a backdrop to an in-depth look at life in Paris and Brussels for the aristocracy and especially the artisans and a delightful look at the fifteenth century tapestry industry struggling to meet a tight time line with a quality product as Ms. Chevalier has done with her pioneering of a historical sub-genre that does to the arts what Stoppard did to Hamlet.............................. Harriet Klausner
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very well written and beautifully detailed
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
When I read this book, I felt the floor and the surroundings! If you like history you'll enjoy this book.
Lizbiz5396 More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book. I did not find it cheesy at all, as one review stated. It is a little heavier on the sexual side but I reject the claim that it is "almost erotica."
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A fast and enjoyable read. Not the most riveting, but does draw the reader in.
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HBMomof2 More than 1 year ago
Tracy Chevalier takes on art history through a novel again, and successfully creates characters that give the story behind the art, this time of the famous medievel tapestry, "The Lady and the Unicorn." Chevalier uses the voices of different characters to provide a changing point of view to the overall plot. I enjoyed this book immensely, as the tapestry has been a favorite piece of artwork of mine since I was a child. It was an entertaining and thought provoking book that made me start to think of other "stories behind the art" so to speak. I hope Chevalier tackles more in this genre, as I would enjoy reading more of her creations.
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