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The Virgin Blue: A Novel [Paperback]

Tracy Chevalier
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (89 customer reviews)
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Book Description

June 24 2003

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.

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The Virgin Blue: A Novel + Falling Angels: A Novel + The Lady and the Unicorn: A Novel
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From 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.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.


“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)

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
She was called Isabelle, and when she was a small girl her hair changed colour in the time it takes a bird to call to its mate. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sublime Sept. 12 2009
By Saro
The precursor to A Girl with a Pearl Earring and the sublime The Lady and the Unicorn may not match them in lyrical fluidity and passion, but it makes up with its quiet intrigue and historical sojourn that traces the disparate lives of Ella and Isabelle, two women (arguably of the same lineage) whose lives intertwine ever so subtly as they live some four centuries apart, but find themselves delicately joined. While The Virgin Blue is gripping enough on its own, it falls a bit short considering the vast talent that Chevalier would exhibit in her subsequent work. Nonetheless, it is clear to the reader that the author's passion for art and historical narrative springs from this debut novel about religious intolerance.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Chevalier never ceases to amaze me July 19 2004
Having read "Girl With A Pearl Earring" before this (and loving that), I was unconsciously comparing the two while I was reading this book. I tried to stop myself from doing that (comparing two books from the same author) but it's an unconscious act that I find hard to control.
So knowing what I was getting myself into, I read Virgin Blue. And the final verdict? Tracy Chevalier never disappoints. Her writing style is impeccable. It's just so vivid you feel as if everything was happening right before your very eyes. And I appreciate the fact that her novel is well-researched and I learned something new, historically, when I read her books.
The story is good. It's about trying to find your identity, trying to find out who you really are. A topic that all of us can appreciate. It's quite an easy read, an entertaining, educational and enlightening read.
It's a good read for anyone and everyone but especially for women out there who have experienced a loss and who wants to be found.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Virgin Novel July 19 2004
Having never read Chevalier's work I was very pleased with this novel, which is her first. The interesting thing to me was that the story took place at two different times in history but in the same geographic area. The first chapter introduces us to Isabelle, a girl who lives in France in the 1600s during a religious upheaval. Isabelle is seen as odd by her town because of her red hair, which was uncommon at the time. In chapter two we meet Ella, an American who has moved to France with her husband. Over the course of the novel Ella searches out her family history and finds that her family originated near where she now lives. The story is historical fiction while also discussing changes in relationships, personal revelations, and major life changes for many of the characters. I especially found the story changes by chapter interesting, and the way that Chevalier integrates the two main characters' stories toward the end. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in historical fiction and world literature. I would suggest that someone who does not know European religious history well read the Historical Note at the end before beginning the story though.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Ms. Chevalier's First Novel! July 14 2004
The first novel I read by Ms. Chevalier was "Lady and the Unicorn." Since then I've picked up every single title this talented author has penned. Some have been great, some have been just so so. I found Ms. Chevalier's first effort to be very entertaining with it's dual storylines. One from a historical perspective and the other a contemporary but they are both woven together to tell the story of one family. One should be aware since it is not stated prior to the start of the story that the historic portion of the story surrounding Isabelle du Moulin is set during the Protestant Reformation. This was an amazing scary time in history. Although there is a end note at the end of the story it may help some readers understand what is going on.
Ms. Chevalier is a very talented author and if you've read her before you may find this effort not as good as other titles. I suggest you come to this read with an open mind and if you don't compare you will find this a very nice and entertaining read.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Intense June 15 2004
I've always loved that beautiful blue that is always associated with France. This novel was awesome. I loved the color allusions and the religious imagery. It seems in every review I write about her books two words keep coming up--tragic and imagery.
If Romanticism were still in vogue Chevalier would fit right in. The symbols and contrasts between dark/light were so strong and beautiful in this novel.
It is rare to find a novel that about medieval history that is interesting and accurate, but Chevalier has bridged the gap with The Virgin Blue. Her characters are real and engrossing while at the same time she magically relates France's rich Hugenot history. I despised Etienne and his mother while I loved Marie and Isabelle. The historical story line, which is where Chevelier excels, was stronger and better than its modern counter.
This is an author who does her research as thorough as her characters. The Virgin Blue is the strongest novel of the three I have read from her in many ways. I highly recommend it.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A stirring, satisfying read May 20 2004
Tracy Chevalier's _The Virgin Blue_ tells the tale of Ella Turner, who moves to France with her husband and embarks on research of the Tournier clan, her French relatives. Woven into the story is a narrative from a 16th century relative, Isabelle du Moulin. As Ella digs further into her past, she confronts challenges in her marriage, the unease of fitting into French village life, and a recurrent nightmare tinged with a distinct blue hue. Isabella has her own marriage difficulties, as well as questions of faith and superstition surrounding her.
Chevalier moves seamlessly through the two women's lives, writing so evocatively that it's easy to think that you really know these women--that they might actually exist. Bringing in accurate historical information from the Protestant Reformation and how it made its way through France, pitting the Hugenots against the Catholics, adds interest to the story.
The real focus of the story is how these two women, relatives stretching across time, are bound up in each other's lives, how actions in the past come back to haunt the present, and how superstition and premonition blend in ways that both intrigue and damage the believers.
This is definitely a quick read, but one that will keep you involved until the end.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars The Virgin Blue.A Novel
Great historical novel with a modern twist.Tracy has a great way of making you feel you arementwined in her stories.
Published 20 months ago by Trudi Backman
5.0 out of 5 stars It's not about airlines
I came to this book totally on my own, by accident, and I love it. Compared to Chevalier's Girl with a Pearl Earing, The Virgin Blue does seem less tightly written. Read more
Published on July 27 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars Better than Girl with the Pearl Earring
It's very interesting to me to see the wide range of opinions on this book. Clearly, if you are a Tracy Chevalier fan you will like this book, but whether or not you love it will... Read more
Published on July 2 2004 by KRyan
5.0 out of 5 stars fascinating
I enjoyed Girl with the Pearl Earring, but this book surpasses it with ease. This book will catch your interest from the beginning as the connection between Ella and Isabelle... Read more
Published on June 12 2004
3.0 out of 5 stars Not as good as the books that followed
Having read and loved both Girl with a Pearl Earring and Falling Angels (haven't gotten my hands on The Lady and the Unicorn yet), I was quite excited to run into Tracy Chevalier's... Read more
Published on June 12 2004 by S. Gefen
5.0 out of 5 stars Virgin Blue
I agree with a previous reviewer in that I liked this book, "The Virgin Blue," much better than "Girl With a Pearl Earring," though I did enjoy that book as... Read more
Published on June 4 2004
3.0 out of 5 stars Virgin Blue
I found this tale lacking. A basic quick read "romance to read on the beach" novel. Predictable and far fetched.
Published on June 3 2004 by Cori Cormier
5.0 out of 5 stars I am shocked that the primary review has been poor...
...because I found this book to be much more satisfying, and far more intriguing, than 'The Girl with the Pearl Earing'. This is a gem of a book, and one I will never forget.
Published on May 28 2004
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