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Virgin Blue [Paperback]

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

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Book Description

Dec 12 2012
This is the story of Isabel and the persecution of the Huguenots and also the story of Ella, a young American who moves to rural France and becomes obsessed with the colour blue and by the genealogy of her family. The two strands of the novel meet as Ella discovers the truth about Isabel's fate.

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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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


“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)

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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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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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars The Virgin Blue.A Novel March 8 2013
Format:Kindle Edition
Great historical novel with a modern twist.Tracy has a great way of making you feel you arementwined in her stories.
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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 It's not about airlines July 27 2004
By A Customer
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. But, I was amazed that it was her first novel. While reading the book, I felt like I had actually visited both contemporary and 16th century French settings. Characters are excellently drawn and this is better than a lot of writer's fifth and sixth novels. Also recommended; BARK OF THE DOGWOOD
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Virgin Novel July 20 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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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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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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5.0 out of 5 stars Better than Girl with the Pearl Earring July 3 2004
By KRyan
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 depend on the type of novel you generally enjoy reading. The Virgin Blue has much more of a suspense element to it, so if you enjoy reading suspense-type literature this will hold your attention more than Girl with the Pearl Earring. I enjoyed that novel immensely, but it took longer to get into than this one. And I must disagree with the reviewer who took exception with Ms. Chevalier's portrait of the French. Having lived in France for 2 years and travelled in other parts of Europe, I think the author's description of certain characters, while stereotypical, are accurate portrayals. In any case, I loved this novel and hope you will give it a chance.
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