Friday, April 17, 2009

The Virgin Blue

by Tracy Chevalier

This is my second Tracy Chevalier novel. I read Girl with a Pearl Earring a couple of months ago and quite enjoyed it. I thought it was a clever idea for a story and I liked Chevalier’s writing style. I also enjoy historical fiction, so I thought I’d give The Virgin Blue a try.

The story takes place in two different time periods. In modern day, Ella Turner moves with her husband from San Francisco to a small town in France. She struggles with what to do day-to-day (she’s a midwife, but has to get a license to practice in France). She begins to look into her French heritage after being haunted by nightmares about a specific color of blue. One thing leads to another and she discovers interesting facts about some of her relatives four hundred years ago.

The other part of the story involves those ancestors of Ella’s in the late 1500’s. Isabelle du Moulin is a young girl with red hair which she keeps neatly hidden since the other villagers frown upon red hair. She marries a man and starts a family, but the oppression she faces! She too is a midwife, but her husband’s family doesn’t want her to continue as such. They are Huguenots (French Protestants) and with all the religious unrest of that time, they flee to Switzerland where the oppression of Isabelle gets far worse.

As the book progressed I just hated reading about Isabelle’s situation, but I came to admire her. Ella, on the other hand, was a total wimp and she turned a little psycho in the end. Maybe a lot of psycho. I felt like Ella had no morals, no guts, no direction. I think she was too suckered in by the French (as I would be).

I was completely intrigued by the first two-thirds of the book. Sometimes I would get so wrapped up in it I would forget where I was. I think Chevalier has a unique writing style that really encompasses what the characters are feeling. And I am such a sucker for French. There is a lot of French in this book which I was able to mostly understand with my high school and college language background. I just LOVE the French language (not unlike Gomez Addams when Morticia would speak French to him—I completely relate to him). But for the last bit of the book, I was disappointed in the direction the modern story took. It was too unbelievable for me that Ella could form the relationships she did, abandon the relationships she already had, and find the connection to Isabelle du Moulin that she did.

So I have to give this one a C+ or 2 ½ stars. It was good, but not good enough. I think I’ll still give Chevalier another try, though. Especially if she writes some more about/in French. C’est la plus belle langue du monde.

1 comment:

Lula O said...

I really like that cover. Her hair is such a beautiful red.

This books sounds alot like Anya Seton's Green Darkness, a book I liked. I have yet to read Girl with a Pearl Earring too. I'll probably try that one first.
And hey, I want to learn french!