The Dream Lover

By Elizabeth Berg

(Random House, $28, 368 pages)

Who is this author?

With a long list of bestselling novels to her credit, Elizabeth Berg has established herself as one of today’s most successful authors. Her novels include Talk Before Sleep, Tapestry of Fortunes, The Last Time I Saw You, Home Safe, The Year of Pleasures, and Dream When You’re Feeling Blue, Open House  (an Oprah’s Book Club selection), Durable Goods and Joy School (ALA Best Books of the Year), and The Pull of the Moon was adapted as a play. In addition, she has published two collections of short stories and two works of nonfiction. Berg has homes in Chicago and San Francisco.

What is this book about?

Nineteenth century French  novelist George Sand, as we know or should know, was not a male writer. Sand was the pen name of Aurore Dupin, a powerful author who was as unlucky at love as she was successful in writing. Unafraid of living an unconventional life, and undaunted by those who called it scandalous, she had many  lovers and friends include Frédéric Chopin, Gustave Flaubert, Franz Liszt, Eugène Delacroix, Victor Hugo, Marie Dorval, and Alfred de Musset and she herself became a Paris luminary in her time. Ivan Turgenev said of Sand: “What a brave man she was, and what a good woman.”

Why you’ll like it:

Elizabeth Berg was once a nurse, and her innate understanding of the human heart and its hurts underlies her many bestselling novels, which include Talk Before Sleep, in my opinion one of the most astute descriptions of women’s friendships ever published. In Dream Lover, Berg uses her insights to explores a woman who was a rarity in her time: she  achieved professional fame, publishing nine novels, plays, essays, literary criticism and more; yet she suffered personal heartbreak. Berg captures her contradictions and complexities in this deeply researched and well-written biographical novel.

What others are saying:


Library Journal’s starred review says: “George Sand, born Aurore Dupin in 1804 to a courtesan and a descendant of Polish royalty who was a distinguished military officer in France, is often reduced to the bullet points of her life: she was a prodigious writer who dressed in men’s clothing and smoked cigars in public, a friend and/or lover to much of the A-list of 19th-century European culture (Frédéric Chopin, Gustave Flaubert, Franz Liszt), and a divorcée who had troubled relationships with her mother, grandmother, and children. Berg’s years-long immersion in the writings of and about Sand has resulted in a remarkable channeling of Sand’s voice that imagines the contradictory strands of her nature. Among these themes are her fierce independence, so contrary to her endless impetuous romantic entanglements, which quickly devolve into difficult morasses. Sand’s endless struggles to be a good parent were compromised by her unsettled travels; all of these issues were driven by her intense need to write. VERDICT Years ago, Berg urged Nancy Horan (Loving Frank) to write a fictional biography of Sand. Horan told Berg to write it herself. Wisely, Berg took her advice to heart, as evidenced by this beautiful, imaginative re-creation of a brilliant, complicated writer, feminist, romantic, and activist.”

Kirkus Review says: “Best-selling author Berg turns her attention to the life of French writer George Sand with this vivid historical novel. The book begins twice: It’s 1831, and Aurore Dupin, a free-spirited young woman, is leaving her loveless marriage in the French countryside for a creative, bohemian life in Paris—the life that will lead her to become literary icon George Sand. Then time whips backward: It’s 1804, and the scene is Aurore’s birth. Her mother is fiery, passionate, low-born and beautiful; her father is handsome, musical, charming, a military star. And so Berg sets off on a project that’s part biography, part George Sand fantasy, alternating between scenes from Aurore’s fairy-tale childhood and tales of her adult affairs—her brilliant career, her difficult family life, her struggles with femininity and the limitations of femaleness, her complicated sexuality, and, above all, her many, many whirlwind romances. “There is only one happiness in life, to love and be loved,” Sand once wrote, and it is that quest that becomes the focal point of Berg’s novel: We follow Aurore in and out of her loveless marriage, through passionate relationships and bright-burning assignations, many of them with historical characters famous in their own rights. Her work, we are told, comes easily and brilliantly and is met with perpetual praise and complete success; her politics are progressive and generally to be admired. A more nuanced exploration of her professional and political life might have brought Berg’s Sand necessary humanity and texture, providing both a foil and a context for her love affairs. As it is, though, Aurore—for all that she’s intoxicating, beautiful, gifted, desirous, unconventional and heartbroken—never quite becomes human. She remains mythlike, and we remain one step removed. A thoroughly pleasant escape, if not a particularly deep one.”


Says Publishers Weekly: “Berg’s latest novel is about the iconoclastic French writer born as Aurore Dupin but better known as George Sand. The story begins in 1831, when Aurore leaves her loveless marriage for a bohemian life in Paris. Born to an aristocratic soldier and a courtesan, Aurore’s upbringing is shaped by her father’s untimely death and her mother’s unpredictability. Craving love and reveling in the natural beauty of the family estate at Nohant, she finds that conventional marriage stifles her soul. Though it means financial uncertainty and separation from her two children, the move to Paris lets her authentic, creative, androgynous self emerge. Notoriety, bestsellerdom, and a place in glittering literary, political, and artistic circles follow; though she has relationships with myriad men, including Frédéric Chopin, Berg suggests that it was a woman, the actress Marie Dorval, who most deeply captured her heart. In its attempt to capture Sand’s entire eventful life, the novel can get overly expository. In the smaller, more intimate moments—the kind that helped make her previous books so successful—Berg offers vivid, sensual detail and a sensitive portrayal of the yearning and vulnerability behind Sand’s bold persona.”

“The Dream Lover is the dream match of writer to subject, Elizabeth Berg animating George Sand so vividly that you feel the Frenchwoman speaking directly to you. Infamous for her eccentricities and her passions, Sand is shown to be a touching figure, a woman needing to love and be loved, a writer needing to be read and understood. Bravo to Berg for pushing aside decades and decades of misunderstanding to reveal so compelling a story, and so human a heart,” says author Robin Black.

When is it available?

This novel about a remarkable woman and author is at the Downtown Hartford Public Library.

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