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The Lady and the Unicorn Audio CD – Audiobook, Unabridged

3.9 out of 5 stars 209 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

If you think you wouldn't raise your skirts for a rakish legend about the purifying powers of a unicorn's horn, then maybe you aren't a 15th-century serving girl under the sway of a velvet-tongued court painter of ill repute. In keeping with her bestselling Girl with a Pearl Earring, and its Edwardian-era follow-up, Falling Angels, Tracy Chevalier's tale of artistic creation and late-medieval amours, The Lady and the Unicorn is a subtle study in social power, and the conflicts between love and duty. Nicolas des Innocents has been commissioned by the Parisian nobleman Jean Le Viste to design a series of large tapestries for his great hall (in real life, the famous Lady and the Unicorn cycle, now in Paris's Musee National du Moyen-Age Thermes de Cluny). While Nicolas is measuring the walls, he meets a beautiful girl who turns out to be Jean Le Viste's daughter. Their passion is impossible for their world--so forbidden, given their class differences, that its only avenue of expression turns out to be those magnificent tapestries. The historical evidence on which this story is based is slight enough to allow the full play of Chevalier's imagination in this cleverly woven tale. --Regina Marler --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Chevalier, whose bestselling Girl with a Pearl Earring showed how a picture can inspire thousands of words, yokes her limpid, quietly enthralling storytelling to the six Lady and the Unicorn tapestries that hang in the Museum of the Middle Ages in Paris. As with her Vermeer novel, she takes full creative advantage of the mystery that shrouds an extraordinary collaborative work of art. Building on the little that is known or surmised - in this case that the tapestries were most likely commissioned by the French noble Jean Le Viste and made in a workshop in Brussels at the end of the 15th century - she imagines her way into a lost world. We are introduced to Nicholas des Innocents, the handsome, irrepressibly seductive artist who designed the works for the cold Le Viste, a rich, grim social climber who bought his way into the nobility and cares more about impressing the king and his court than pleasing the wife who has disappointed him by bearing three girls and no sons. Le Viste's wife, Genevieve, tells Nicholas to create scenes with a unicorn but Nicholas's love of women - and especially of Geneviève's beautiful daughter Claude - inspires the extraordinary faces and gestures of the women he depicts. A great romance unfolds. What makes the tale enthralling are the details Chevalier offers about the social customs of the time and, especially, the craft of weaving as it was practiced in Brussels. There are psychological anachronisms: would a young woman in medieval times express her pent-up frustrations by cutting herself as some teenage girls do today? Yet the genuine drama Chevalier orchestrates as the weavers race to complete the tapestries, and the deft way she herself weaves together each separate story strand, results in a work of genuine power and beauty. And yes, readers will inevitably think about what a gorgeous movie this would make.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Audio CD
  • Publisher: Penguin Audio; Unabridged edition (December 29, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0142800341
  • ISBN-13: 978-0142800348
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 1 x 5.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (209 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,425,665 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Joe Sherry on March 29, 2004
Format: Hardcover
"The Lady in the Unicorn" is Tracy Chevalier's fourth novel. She is the author of the best selling (and recently a major motion picture) "Girl with a Pearl Earring". Tracy Chevalier seems to write the same sort of novel each time, but because the subjects are different, the ways the novels play out are different. The technique that Chevalier uses is that she takes a painting that I presume she likes (or is just interested in). She learns as much of the backstory of the painting as possible and then writes a fictional novel about how this painting came about and who the artist and subjects are. In the two Chevalier novels I have read now, this has turned out to be much more interesting than it may at first sound.
The story in "The Lady and the Unicorn" is set in 15th Century Paris and Brussels. Nicolas des Innocents has been commissioned to create a set of tapestries for a minor member of the French nobility Jean Le Viste. This seems simple enough: Commission, Paint, Weave, Complete. What sets this novel apart is in the telling. Nicolas is a talented artist, but rather arrogant about his art. He mainly paints miniatures in great detail and has never had to design a tapestry (it takes a different sort of skill to design a tapestry). But Nicolas is also a lusty man. Months prior he had impregnated a maid at Le Viste's estate and this time he has his eye on a young woman named Claude. It also seems that Claude has her eye on Nicolas. There wouldn't be any trouble (or much) if it didn't turn out that Claude is Jean Le Viste's eldest daughter and heir to the estate. Now any tryst must be secret, but Claude's mother knows something is afoot so she works to keep them apart so Claude may keep her virginity and be an eligible bride with the estate as a dowry.
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Format: Audio CD
The plot of this book is well-described above so I won't repeat it here. The high points of this novel are the rich period detail -- the differences between how members of various social classes lived, the role of women in France and Belgium during the Renaissance, the interaction between art and politics, and, most of all, the creation of art, especially tapestries and how they differ from painting. The characters are particularly well-developed and it is very easy to care for them. I especially liked the blind daughter of the weaver and how Chevalier got into how she perceived the world and how the world of her day perceived her and her "flaw." It is extremely easy to empathize with the Lady Genvieve, stuck in a loveless marriage with nothing but her religion to cling to, her daughter Claude and her importance to her father solely as a means to his social-climbing, and the family of weavers whose work on the series of tapestries of the book's title will either make them or break them, and somehow ends up doing both.
I bought this book on audio, and there are two shortcomings that keep me from giving it a higher rating, one inherent in the book itself, the other having to do with the audio reading. The first problem I have with the book is that it often reads like a bad romance novel, especially when dealing with the sexual awakening of Claude. Yes, she is a 14 year-old girl and we are hearing or reading, as the case may be, her point of view, but everytime I heard these passages I kept imagining a paperback with Fabio on the cover. I almost got into an accident driving and listening to this book as I was giggling pretty hard in places. The book is also quite repetitive and felt rather short, more like a padded novella.
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Format: Hardcover
Ms. Chevalier's "The Lady and the Unicorn" was a deftly woven tapestry of words that tied together several different individuals via one character named Nicolas des Innocents a very talented but vain artist.
This story is told from the view point of several of the characters (each chapter is a character in the story) on the design and creation of a very important tapestry which depicted the seduction of the Unicorn by a lady. From the birth of the design by Nicolas for a very important partron in Paris to the weaving of the design by a family of weavers in Brussels this story covers the life of Nicolas and how his randy self effects everyone that he comes into contact with.
This was a well told tale that kept me glued to the pages. Ms. Chevalier is a very talented author who chooses her inspiration for her stories from vivid works of art. This story will grab you from the very beginning and you will be drawn to the very interesting and at times funny characters that inhabit this little make belive world. I highly recommend this book as an entertaining way to pass an afternoon.
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Format: Hardcover
I didn't like Tracy Chevalier's book, "Girl With a Pearl Earring," and I didn't read the other two, so I was a little reluctant to buy this book. I love the Lady and Unicorn tapestries in the Cluny Museum in Paris so much, though, that I couldn't resist. I'm glad I didn't.
Chevalier's writing is still spare and straightforward and I was happy to see that, but her sense of character and the richness she adds to her plot strands has increased many times over.
This is a lovely book, filled with fully-realized characters and a beautifully-woven plot...almost as beautiful as the tapestries in the Cluny. Chevalier has certainly used her imagination well in giving us a story about how these beautiful tapestries might have come about. I felt like I was really transported back to France (and Brussels) during the fifteenth century. Chevalier hasn't skimped on the details and it's the details that make this book so lovely.
I enjoyed this book and, although not an artist, I am a lover of art. I think anyone who loves art, France, tapestries or beautifully-told romantic tales will love "The Lady and the Unicorn." I recommend it highly.
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