The Lady and the Unicorn

I just finished The Lady and the Unicorn by Tracy Chevalier. Her most famous book is probably Girl with a Pearl Earring, which I also enjoyed. Tracy Chevalier likes to take a famous work of art and imagine the story behind it. This particular work was a set of tapestries. She imagined the painter to be quite a ladies’ man, wreaking havoc in two households during the creation of the tapestries.

What I liked about the book was what I learned about the creation of tapestries. In Girl with a Pearl Earring, I learned a lot about the creation of paint. This time I learned about dyes and weaving. I didn’t feel very sympathetic to any of the characters in this book. I suppose I related more to the mothers of the two households than I did the daughters. Does this mean I am getting old?

On her website, Tracy Chevalier mentions that she went through a unicorn phase (instead of a horse phase) when she was younger, and that was when she first saw pictures of these tapestries. I can’t remember specifically going through a unicorn phase, but I did like unicorns. Unicorns always make me think of two things – Shel Silverstein’s poem “The Unicorn” and Madeleine L’Engle’s Many Waters. I never connected until just now that both are about Noah and unicorns. I like to imagine that there were more magical creatures around in that time, and that the magic has faded away. Very Tolkienesque, yes?

So, anyway, I enjoyed the book. I wouldn’t give it my highest recommendation, and if you were interested in reading any of Chevalier’s books, I’d read Girl . . . first. But I love the concept of imagining what’s behind a work of art, so I hope she writes more books along those lines.

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