Sunday, 14 September 2008

[TSS] My Thoughts: The Virgin Blue by Tracy Chevalier

I didn't expect to get this finished at all today, but I sat down to a few chapters and the last 150 pages suddenly whirled past.

"She was called Isabelle, and when she was a small girl her hair changed colour in the time it takes a bird to call to its mate."

The story starts with Isabelle, a young girl with copper hair living in the 16th Century. When her hair first changes to the same colour as the Virgin Mary's she is given the nickname La Rousse, but as time passes and Catholicism and the Virgin Mary are shunned the name starts to become something of a plague. Isabelle soon becomes associated with witchcraft along with her mother, the local midwife.

Isabelle marries a local tyrant, moving in with a Christian family, who shun her because her past, and the red hair she constantly tries to cover. As time moves on the Tournier family are forced from their house moving away to Switzerland. Isabelle's marriage has become one of fear and violence, she lives with a mother-in-law and a son who despise her, always mistrusting her, constantly on the look out for signs of witchcraft. Her only sanctuary is her daughter, who is starting to find copper colour stands in her hair, and shares her mother's passion for the deep blue of Mary's robes.

In the alternate chapters we are introduced to Ella Turner/Tournier, she has moved to France with her husband, and feeling lost she decides to dig through the family history to try and help herself fell like she belongs. Soon her nightmares of the bright blue colour and a pray in French become entwined with her search for her family.

As her marriage breaks down, Ella comes to discover more about her heritage, and to feel like she belongs in this foreign country.
Chevalier manages to make the characters from both the 16th Century and the 20th feel alive and well rounded. I would have quite happily have read another 100 odd pages of this book.

2nds Challenge Book 1 of 4

Other reader's thoughts:

If you have read this add a link to your review and I'll add you in


April Boland said...

Thanks for the great review. I have not yet read any Chevalier and would love suggestions on where to start. (Don't know if you have read "Girl with the Pearl Earring" or others.)

Book Zombie said...

Wow this sounds like a fascinating book, thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Enjoy your Sunday :)

SmallWorld at Home said...

Thanks for the review. I loved Chevalier's books that I have read thus far, so I will add this one to my TBR list!