George Sand: A Woman's Life Writ Large

Belinda Elizabeth Jack, Author
Belinda Elizabeth Jack, Author Alfred A. Knopf $30 (416p) ISBN 978-0-679-45501-1
Hardcover - 432 pages - 978-0-09-955205-5
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First and foremost the story of a social pioneer and intellectual acrobat, Jack's exploration of the life of George Sand (1804-1876) is not a standard literary biography. Jack is particularly insightful in her claim that for Sand, literature was not itself the goal of life, but rather a tool with which to probe her psyche in preparation for life. Thus Jack, a lecturer in French at Oxford, finds the seed of Sand's infatuation with the actress Marie Dorval in the inverted gender roles that drive her fiction of the period. And she suggests that Sand's creativity flowed from her writing to the enactment of her fantasies. ""She wrote a great deal from personal experience,"" Jack explains. ""But more usually she tested out, in her fiction, possibilities for life which she then had the courage to live out, after the writing event."" Sand's diverse literary output, many sexual experiments and seemingly endless array of interests (which ranged from engaging in political activism to painting to making jam), according to the author, were all expressions of a single desire: Sand wanted to dictate the scope of her own life. She identified with both her mother's lower-class background and her father's aristocratic bearing; she thrilled in her femininity but often displayed what was deemed a manly love of physical exercise and intellectual freedom. Though Jack's approach seems at times a bit too coldly analytical for such a robust, effusive subject, she communicates, with unflagging compassion and grace, the force with which Sand traversed life, ignoring critics, defying cultural taboos and trumpeting her individuality. 16 pages of b&w illus. (Aug.)
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