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The Virgin Blue: A Novel Paperback – Jun 24 2003

3.7 out of 5 stars 91 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (June 24 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0452284449
  • ISBN-13: 978-0452284449
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.1 x 19.7 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 159 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars 91 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #284,612 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

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)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Saro on Sept. 12 2009
Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback
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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