George Sand was the first female bestseller in France who wrote more than 80 novels and 35 plays over the course of her life, and befriended some of the most influential people of her time. But to really get a sense of how fascinating she was, you should really pick up the novelization of George Sand's life, Elizabeth Berg's The Dream Lover. Because a list of facts doesn't do the remarkable woman justice.
The novel begins when the young Amantine-Lucile-Aurore Dupin first moves away from her husband and children and their country home to live in Paris and try to earn her living as a writer, eventually adopting the pseudonym George Sand not only in her writing life but her personal life as well. She moves in with a lover, finds a job, and begins dressing as a man in order to be attend the theater — and then begins dressing like a man all the time. And throughout all of this, she writes.
Interspersed through the tale of George's success and adult life are sections from her unconventional childhood and teen years. The daughter of an aristocrat and a courtesan, George grew up never quite fitting in anywhere, even within her own family.
Throughout The Dream Lover, Berg shows off George Sand as the rebellious visionary that she was. George rebels against traditional gender norms and defies expectations for women of her class — and for women of any class, seeking to be fulfilled through work rather than domestic life. She plays by her own rules and challenges the power and privilege of the men in her life.
Despite the fact that George lived in the 19th century, many of her difficulties as a woman are still relatable today. She struggles to balance her desire to be with her children with her love of her work and the active social life she lives while away in Paris. She has to deal with men who don't take her seriously, and lovers whose egos can't handle her success. And her views of gender equality are most definitely still relevant. At one point, when asked if she would rather have been born a man she says, "Perhaps I wish to be a woman with a man's privileges."
The novel is an engaging, well-researched take on an inspiring woman who is often overlooked in literary history. Berg makes George Sand come alive on the page as both a relatable and yet larger-than life woman bound and determined to be herself and speak her mind.