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The Lady and the Unicorn [Audiobook] [Audio CD]

Tracy Chevalier , Cornelius Garret
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (66 customer reviews)

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Book Description

March 2004
From the bestselling author of Girl with a Pearl Earring comes a historical tale of love, sex and revenge. Keen to demonstrate his new-found favour with the King, rising nobleman Jean Le Viste commissions six tapestries to adorn the walls of his chateau. 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 Genevieve 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 Alienor and her mother Christine. They too will be captured in his threads.
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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From Publishers Weekly

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, Genevieve, tells Nicholas to create scenes with a unicorn but Nicholas's love of women - and especially of Geneviève'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.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School-This fanciful, engaging tale of the making of the famous unicorn tapestries is woven together as cleverly as the artworks themselves. Dynamic Nicolas des Innocents is proud of his skill as a painter and of his sexual prowess, and displays both at every opportunity. Always in need of funds, he persuades Jean Le Viste, a powerful Parisian nobleman, to commission a series of six tapestry designs of Nicolas's choosing: scenes focused on the unicorn, a fabled symbol of male virility and mysterious powers. Jean's pious wife colludes with the artist, as do her daughter and her lady-in-waiting. Nicolas courts them all. He journeys to Brussels, where his fate becomes intertwined with the family weaving the tapestries, but most of all their daughter, Alienor, whose blindness dooms her to betrothal to a brutish wool dyer. The "family" also includes the workers who assist them, one of whom, shy Philippe, secretly adores Alienor. The deadline for completion of the tapestries is moved up, and tension increases as all concentrate on the task. The major characters' reactions to their world-early 1490s France-are revealed, like the tapestries being woven, a little at a time. The French court and its aristocracy; Flemish weavers, their work ethic, and their powerful guild-all are delineated with the consummate skill Chevalier brought to Girl with a Pearl Earring (Dutton, 2000).-Molly Connally, Chantilly Regional Library, VA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I discovered this author when I purchased a used copy of her first novel, The Girl With a Pearl Earring. I have now read almost all of her works to date. Tracy Chevalier is a superb writer. Many authors have a set style and formula, but every book Tracy writes is unique and beautifully crafted. This novel tells a fictional story behind a real set of 15th century tapestries. It is worth looking them up online to get a good look at the specific works that are the focus of this book. The research that has gone into this book is meticulous, which is always the case with her writing. The story itself draws you right in immediately, the characters are well crafted and rich. If you enjoy historical fiction with a real insight into how people lived and worked centuries ago, this novel is one you will love.
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4.0 out of 5 stars another great Tracy Chevalier read May 26 2013
By EA Dodd
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I enjoyed this book because I was going to France and Belgium and found the history of making the tapestries extremely interesting. It helped me view the tapestries themselves in museums in Paris and the chateaux of the Loire Valley with more knowledge than I had previously. I found the writing style in this book to be somewhat more juvenile than in The Girl with the Pearl Earring which was exceptional. All in all The Lady and the Unicorn was a delightful read however.Historical novels are my favourite genre and Tracy Chevalier's characters come alive.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
I read THE LADY AND THE UNICORN in one sitting, on a plane ride to Europe, and couldn't put it down. History has always fascinated me, and the story of Claude, nobleman's daughter. I found it amazing how Tracy Chevalier was able to take one tapestry and create an entire story about it. She builds upon what is already known to create a piece of fiction that seems almost real unto itself. I always marvel at Chevalier's works, as her language is descriptive to a fault, and doesn't assume an air of modernity which can be found in many historical novels written in the present time. I thought this was a well crafted book, the way McCrae's BARK OF THE DOGWOOD is, or perhaps the novel GIRL WITH A PEARL EARRING. The writing is first-rate and right on the money. Do yourself a favor and buy this book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
A series of six tapestries depicting a lady seducing a unicorn now hang in the Musee National du Moyen Age in Paris. Although these tapestries --- created in the late fifteenth century --- are some of the most famous in the world, very little is known about their creation or their history. Tracy Chevalier, the novelist best known for writing the perennial book club favorite (and new feature film) GIRL WITH A PEARL EARRING, has used her rich imagination to weave together romance, humor and art history in THE LADY AND THE UNICORN.
Chevalier starts with one of the few facts that is actually known about the tapestries: they were created for the nobleman Jean Le Viste, whose family coat of arms features prominently in their design. In Chevalier's portrayal, Le Viste is a power-hungry nobleman with close ties to the king. He wants tapestries depicting the glories of war, but the artist, Nicolas des Innocents --- who specializes in portraits of noblewomen --- convinces Le Viste that a series of tapestries about courtly love will still bring glory to the Le Viste name.
Nicolas himself is a womanizer --- the novel opens from his point of view, and we quickly learn that his amorous sights are set on Le Viste's teenage daughter, Claude. Much to the reader's surprise (and delight), when Claude narrates the next section of the novel we learn that she is just as lustful as Nicolas, and her prose just as bawdy. Needless to say, when Claude's family discovers their flirtation, her mother (who wants to be a nun) must concoct a plan to keep the would-be lovers apart. Claude is banished to a convent and Nicolas is sent to Brussels to supervise the weaving of the tapestries there.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Very good July 9 2007
By Toni Osborne TOP 100 REVIEWER
This story is set in medieval/Renaissance France

A rich Paris merchant, commissions a young portrait artist better know for his womanizing to design dramatic tapestries to grace his ball room walls. Instead of battles the nobleman is talked into accepting designs based around the seduction of the Unicorn, which fits more the artist lustful view of life and women. The tension increases when the artist directs his libidinous appetite toward the daughters of his patrons.

I loved this book, the author uses seven different narrative voices , all consistent and clear which makes a far more intense and emotional reading. The mysterious Unicorn tapestry certainly makes a rich and elaborate story.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Woven delights Oct. 20 2004
By Jacques
Format:Audio Cassette
Boy, I wasn't ready for this one! Tracy Chevalier's tale of an artist and his dallying with the servants is a subtle study in power plays, moray of the past, and sexy and imaginative romps. First we have Nicholas who gets a commission to draw the sketches for tapestries. He's to do this for a nobleman and ends up falling in love with the nobelman's daughter. Then there's the housemaid who Nicholas can't keep his hands (and other body parts) off and out of. A compelling story with just enough spice, the excellent writing will remind you of "Girl with a Pearl Earring" or possibly some of McCrae's books (think "Bark of the Dogwood). If you liked "Girl" you'll love this one. This books makes for a great escape on a cold autumn night.
Also recommended: Any of the other Chevalier books and the novel THE BARK OF THE DOGWOOD
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars THE LADY AND THE UNICORN
Like a good deal of people I came to this book via "Girl With a Pearl Earring." Now I'm a dyed-in-the-wool fan of Chevalier. Read more
Published on July 28 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful, but scandalous!
This is a really well-written, beautifully descriptive, accurate, and exciting novel. Don't be put off by the fact that it's about a tapestry, because it's not a technical, boring... Read more
Published on July 19 2004 by ekati89
5.0 out of 5 stars Chevalier surpassed all my expectations
I read this book in one sitting, on a plane ride to Europe, and couldn't put it down. History has always fascinated me, and the story of Claude, nobleman's daughter. Read more
Published on July 18 2004 by Ellis Bell
4.0 out of 5 stars Can't go wrong with this one
Chevalier writes much better female characters than men. Still, this book is a great read. While I liked "Girl with a Pearl Earring" slightly better, this book comes in... Read more
Published on June 30 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars Chevalier does it again.
What the Girl With the Pearl Earring was to painting, The Lady and the Unicorn is to weaving. Beautifully told, through the varying viewpoints of the main characters. Read more
Published on June 29 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars Form follows function
The form of this book was what was most unique about it--each chapter is told by a different character. But aside from that, the writing also stood out. Read more
Published on June 16 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazingly good
I have never had any interest in tapestries. Having read all the great reviews, I was curious if I'd find The Lady and the Unicorn interesting at all, or if I would be ground into... Read more
Published on June 12 2004 by semi_sweet_nell
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Read
This was just a great book. I read it after Tracy's Girl with a Pearl Earring. In this book, there are a cast of characters that all have a chapter or chapters told from their... Read more
Published on June 11 2004 by Sarah
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