Synopses & Reviews
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.
"[T]he genuine drama Chevalier orchestrates...and the deft way she herself weaves together each separate story strand, results in a work of genuine power and beauty." Publishers Weekly
"The story she weaves is as lush as the tapestries she describes, and her colorful characters leap off the page. A romantic, beautiful book." Booklist
"Marvelously imagined and sharply constructed, with a good feel for the people and the era: a fascinating portrait of the intersection of life and art." Kirkus Reviews
"[N]otable for its human warmth....Chevalier reminds us that art has the power to illuminate the understanding of those who make it as well as those who view it." The New York Times Book Review
"The Lady and the Unicorn lacks the rarefied elegance and the striving after perfection of the tapestries that inspired it. Instead, without coyness, it presents a spirited tableau of a distant age." Times Literary Supplement
"Tracy Chevalier has invented another juicy backstory to a great work of art…a lively, sexy, and thoroughly entertaining novel." —Entertainment Weekly
"Subtly rendered, surprisingly complex characters…a novel notable for its human warmth." —The New York Times Book Review
"Tracy Chevalier has spun a story as richly detailed as the medieval tapestries on which it’s based…a fascinating novel." —Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
"Tracy Chevalier's approach to fiction is so methodical that she threatens to turn writing about art into science." —The New York Times
Bewitching art experts and enthusiasts alike for centuries, the Lady and the Unicorn tapestries hang today in the Cluny Museum in Paris.
In each, an elegant lady and a unicorn stand or sit on an island of grass surrounded by a rich background of animals and flowers. Little is known about them except that they were woven toward the end of the fifteenth century and bear the coat of arms of a wealthy family from Lyons.
Tracy Chevalier takes readers back to the tapestries' creation, giving life to the men who designed and made them, as well as the wives, daughters, and servants who exercised subtle (and not so subtle) influences over their men. Like the many different strands of wool and silk that were woven together into one cloth, the lives and fates of these people entwine in complex patterns, crisscrossing as they seek desires sensual and spiritual, temporal and eternal.
An extraordinary story exquisitely told, Tracy Chevalier's The Lady and the Unicorn weaves history and fiction into a beautiful, timeless, and intriguing literary tapestry that rivals in grace and grandeur the masterpiece that inspired it.
New York Times bestselling author of Girl With a Pearl Earring and Falling Angels, Tracy Chevalier, returns with a fictional explanation to one of the art world's great masterpieces, the Lady and the Unicorn Tapestries, and weaves history and fiction into a beautiful, timeless, and intriguing literary tapestry of her own.
An extraordinary story exquisitely told, Chevalier's "The Lady and the Unicorn" weaves history and fiction into a beautiful, timeless, and intriguing literary tapestry that rivals in grace and grandeur the masterpiece that inspired it.
About the Author
"I was born and grew up in Washington, DC. After getting a BA in English from Oberlin College (Ohio), I moved to London, England in 1984. I intended to stay 6 months; I’m still here.
"As a kid I’d often said I wanted to be a writer because I loved books and wanted to be associated with them. I wrote the odd story in high school, but it was only in my twenties that I started writing ‘real’ stories, at night and on weekends. Sometimes I wrote a story in a couple evenings; other times it took me a whole year to complete one.
"Once I took a night class in creative writing, and a story I’d written for it was published in a London-based magazine called Fiction. I was thrilled, even though the magazine folded 4 months later.
I worked as a reference book editor for several years until 1993 when I left my job and did a year-long MA in creative writing at the University of East Anglia in Norwich (England). My tutors were the English novelists Malcolm Bradbury and Rose Tremain. For the first time in my life I was expected to write every day, and I found I liked it. I also finally had an idea I considered ‘big’ enough to fill a novel. I began The Virgin Blue during that year, and continued it once the course was over, juggling writing with freelance editing.
"An agent is essential to getting published. I found my agent Jonny Geller through dumb luck and good timing. A friend from the MA course had just signed on with him and I sent my manuscript of The Virgin Blue mentioning my friend’s name. Jonny was just starting as an agent and needed me as much as I needed him. Since then he’s become a highly respected agent in the UK and I’ve gone along for the ride."
Tracy Chevalier is the New York Times bestselling author of six previous novels, including Girl with a Pearl Earring, which has been translated into thirty-nine languages and made into an Oscar-nominated film. Her latest novel is The Last Runaway. Born and raised in Washington, D.C., she lives in London with her husband and son.