1 May 2015

The Virgin Blue by Tracy Chevalier - Book Review

As planned, I read Tracy Chevalier's first book The Virgin Blue. After The Last Runway, which I couldn't put down, I still felt hungry of her beautiful style and stories - so I kept reading.

The Virgin Blue combines the story of two women who have a lot in common. In 16th century France, Isabelle Tournier, known as La Rousse for her red hair, is tormented in the small village where she lives. She gets married to Etienne, an evil man who will affect her life forever. Four centuries later, Ella Turner moves with her husband Rick from California to a small town in Southern France where she struggles to fit in. Bored of her new life, she carries out a research on her ancestry which will expose her emotionally.

The intertwining of the stories of Isabelle and Ella makes a great plot. While Isabelle's story can feel a bit slow at first, it becomes very intriguing until a satisfactory ending as opposed to Ella's one. Ella's story is more complete, closer to today and straightforward, especially towards the end. I wasn't very content with the open ending which is slightly unrealistic and leaves a bittersweet taste. It made me think that Chevalier's inexperience was the reason for this (sort of) mistake in the book structure. However, I enjoyed the whole book so much that I definitely cannot complain.

The characterisation of Ella is complete. As readers, we know her feelings and her reactions before we'll be told. Even without knowing the author herself, I felt like it was an autobiographical character (and thought so when characters in the book tell her to write her story). And obviously I fell in love with the character of Jean-Paul, whom I can't speak about for spoilers.

I also really liked the shift in time from the two parts of the book. As you may know I love historical fiction and reading books that are set in different places of the world which is just what Chevalier does. There is a great description of the French War of Religion between the Catholic and the Protestant in (and a short historical section at the end of the book) as well as an account of small French towns today.

The Virgin Blue is a magical book. It contains history, romance and drama. It's beautifully written and I don't know anyone who wouldn't enjoy it! So pick up your copy and let me know your thoughts ;)

My edition: Tracy Chevalier, 2008. The Virgin Blue. London: Harper Collins.

Goordeads: 5/5.

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