George Sand

Martine Reid, trans. from the French by Gretchen van Slyke. Penn State Univ., $29.95 (264p) ISBN 978-0-271-08106-9
Reid, a professor of French language and literature, homes in on the essential threads of author Sand’s life and work, and makes a strong case for her continuing relevance. Sand (1804–1876), born Amantine Lucile Aurore Dupin, was famously a cross-dresser and experimented with gender roles throughout her life, not least in adopting a male nom de plume. A celebrity as much for an audacious lifestyle that included numerous affairs (Frédéric Chopin was one of her paramours) as for her writing, she attempted to embody the French Revolution’s ideals of freedom, equality, and brotherhood in a period of monarchy and repression. While her books, notably including the pastoral novels La Mare au Diable and La Petite Fadette, are not much read today, Reid points out how popular and well-regarded they were in Sand’s own time, and defends her romantic idealism in contrast to the more realist vision of writers like Sand’s friend Gustave Flaubert. Reid, at least implicitly, raises important questions: how are women who defy social norms treated now, and should more value be placed on literature that envisions a better future? This biography offers an excellent point of entry into Sand’s life and thought, encouraging reevaluation of a famed but perhaps underrated author who felt “for humanity... because they are me.” (May)
Reviewed on: 02/12/2018
Release date: 05/01/2018
Genre: Nonfiction
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