The Lady and the Unicorn

The Lady and the Unicorn

Book - 2004
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A tour de force of history and imagination, The Lady and the Unicorn is Tracy Chevalier's answer to the mystery behind one of the art world's great masterpieces--a set of bewitching medieval tapestries that hangs today in the Cluny Museum in Paris. They appear to portray the seduction of a unicorn, but the story behind their making is unknown--until now.

Paris, 1490. A shrewd French nobleman commissions six lavish tapestries celebrating his rising status at Court. He hires the charismatic, arrogant, sublimely talented Nicolas des Innocents to design them. Nicolas creates havoc among the women in the house--mother and daughter, servant, and lady-in-waiting--before taking his designs north to the Brussels workshop where the tapestries are to be woven. There, master weaver Georges de la Chapelle risks everything he has to finish the tapestries--his finest, most intricate work--on time for his exacting French client. The results change all their lives--lives that have been captured in the tapestries, for those who know where to look.

In The Lady and the Unicorn , Tracy Chevalier weaves fact and fiction into a beautiful, timeless, and intriguing literary tapestry--an extraordinary story exquisitely told.

Publisher: New York : Dutton, 2004
ISBN: 9780452285453
Branch Call Number: CHE
Characteristics: 250 p. ; 21 cm


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WVMLStaffPicks Jan 05, 2015

This is art history at its romantic best. A love story that traces the making and the mystery behind the beautiful 15th century tapestries of a woman’s seduction of a unicorn. These tapestries hang today in Paris in a quiet chamber of the Cluny Museum. The tapestries are extraordinarily beautiful and tempt the viewer to believe that they must portray a real woman with her own stories to tell. Chevalier’s marvellous imagination takes us back to the time of their making and creates a world of characters and events that bring the tapestries alive.

Feb 26, 2014

Really, really, really good! I enjoyed it very much. The characters were realistic and I felt as though I was there! Amazing.

Dec 28, 2013

The Lady and the Unicorn is medieval historical fiction done well- though the characters live in a time and culture far removed from my daily experience of life, I could relate to them completely. Except Nicolas des Innocents, who is a rake and a scoundrel.

This book has a unique narrative style, with each chapter being told by a different character in the ensemble. The primary journey is that of Nicolas, but every character undergoes a transformation of some sort, and there are no happy endings.

I was impressed with the historical detail that was woven into the storyline, especially the attention to detail regarding the creation of tapestries. I had no idea how that happened in the middle ages, and feel like I have some sense of it (basic, but still) after reading this.

I recommend it to fans of historical fiction, medieval life, ensemble casts, and the dynamic between parents and children.

Jan 16, 2013

I preferred Girl w/a Pearl Earring. I enjoyed Chevalier's evocation of the tapestry workshops of 1490s Brussels, especially when the characters were working all-out to meet a patron's unreasonable deadline, but I found two of the main characters repellent and many of the others simply dull.

Chavalier is not the most in depth historical writer but her depiciton of medieval life is fascinating (right down to the smell of the wool dyers) and the reality of life for women in an emerging merchant class is though provoking. I will always look at tapestry with, more informed appreciation and I am glad I read the book but it is not great literature. It would not be a good choice for a more esoteric book club but it is a great 1-2 day read for relaxation

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