The Dream Lover

Written by Elizabeth Berg
Review by Helene Williams

Noted author Elizabeth Berg has turned her hand to historical fiction and provided eager readers with biography, history, and romance all in one book in her take on the life of George Sand. Told in first person from Sand’s perspective, chapters follow multiple timelines, from her birth in Paris in 1804, to her death in 1876.

Born Amantine-Lucile-Aurore Dupin, her father a nobleman, her mother a courtesan, Aurore grew up in the midst of discord. Her paternal grandmother was at odds with her mother, and the bright, but emotionally insecure Aurore became well-versed in the art of manipulation to gain attention, and, she hoped, unconditional love. When her marriage didn’t provide love, she maneuvered out of it, moving from her estate in Nohant, France, to live in Paris with her lover, among the intellectual and artistic elite. These connections fueled her fledgling attempts at writing, as well as other forms of self-expression, and she was soon seen attending plays dressed in men’s clothing (those seats were cheaper), and becoming known among the literati as George Sand.

Berg’s details of Sand’s hardships, both fiscal and emotional, as well as her great successes, bring the reader into the salons and theaters of the time. We meet Sand’s many lovers and friends, from Franz Liszt, to Marie Dorval, to Eugene Delacroix, to Gustave Flaubert and Frederic Chopin. Every detail, sartorial to architectural, rings true, as do the emotional highs and lows of each character. In Berg’s hands, Sand lives again, playing the piano to inspire Chopin, writing through the night with pages of prose flying off the table, loving deeply, and wanting to be loved in return.