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The Virgin Blue

3.67  ·  Rating details ·  31,481 ratings  ·  1,961 reviews
Meet Ella Turner and Isabelle du Moulin—two women born centuries apart, yet bound by a fateful family legacy. When Ella and her husband move to a small town in France, Ella hopes to brush up on her French, qualify to practice as a midwife, and start a family of her own. Village life turns out to be less idyllic than she expected, however, and a peculiar dream of the color ...more
Paperback, 304 pages
Published June 24th 2003 by Penguin Books (first published 1997)
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Maria McArdle No. It is a lovely, well written story of great emotional depth ideally suited for readers with some life experience from their mid to late teens upwa…moreNo. It is a lovely, well written story of great emotional depth ideally suited for readers with some life experience from their mid to late teens upwards. (less)
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Average rating 3.67  · 
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 ·  31,481 ratings  ·  1,961 reviews

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Told with a minimum amount of melodrama, and bestselling with limited amounts of hype, Tracy Chevalier's debut novel is quite a nice and tidy effort. The whole split level (the main story in the present intersects with a related story set in the past) storytelling device is executed pretty well, and I definitely cared where the stories and the characters in both eras went.

Interesting the whole 'write what you know' approach has Chevalier taking a young American to France, and has strong themes a
Jan 02, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2005-read
So this book started off strong -- very strong. The story of the 1500 Isabelle was very interesting, although could have been developed a little more, I think. I actually had a hard time putting the book down in the first three quarters or more. However, by the end, I was pretty much tired of it. Tired, because it was so odd and unbelievable, and I'd really stopped caring for Ella, the modern-day main character.

I loved the idea of what was happening -- the same land, same family, a modern day ve
Michelle Smith
Dec 28, 2012 rated it it was ok
I was incredibly disappointed in this book. I had read Girl With a Pearl Earring and been very impressed, so I picked up this one expecting something as good. Well, maybe not AS good, since The Virgin Blue was her first book and I was prepared to give her some wriggle room for growth and learning and so on.

Let me say that I think the book's premise is very strong, and I really loved the 'flashbacks' to Isabella. In my opinion, these segments were strong and interesting and well-written.

Where the
Apr 09, 2008 rated it liked it
Apparently, this was Tracy Chevalier's first novel, quite different from most of her other ones. I have read two other novels by this author, "Girl with a Pearl Earring" and "The Lady and the Unicorn", and have enjoyed both very much. This author has a style that appeals to me, simple and straightfoward but with a beauty of its own in the way she captures the characters that compose her stories.

Although I liked "The Virgin Blue", reading it in two days, I ended up fairly confused as to what had
Jan 12, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: heart-wrenching
I picked it up and a day and a half later, I set it down. At first, I wasn't sure what I was getting myself into, but 20 pages in and I was completely hooked.

Since I haven't read anything else by Tracy Chevallier, I wasn't sure I would enjoy her writing. I was happy to discover she has a natural knack for character development, I found her to be a very honest author, unafraid to describe what "we" are really feeling inside. Exposing the vulnerability of human nature with her intertwining storie
Cat Tutt
Feb 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
4.5 stars

This book gets a pretty easy 4.5 stars from me. I'm a sucker for a good historical fiction with a female character researching her connection to her family's past, which is the basic sum of the plot. That said, this book had a lot going for it aside from my natural affinity for the plot line.

I will admit that a lot of my historical fiction reading has been by certain authors and set in certain areas, which may make the book more novel to me than to a more widely read historical fiction
Nov 17, 2008 rated it did not like it
Okay, maybe 1.5 stars is more fair. Anyway, this book annoyed the heck out of me! This is my third Chevalier novel(also read "Girl w/ a Pearl Earring" and "The Lady and the Unicorn) and enjoyed the first two--this is her first novel and I think it shows.
There are 2 main characters in this book--both women, but living centuries apart. Ella, the present-day character, is an American ex-pat living in France with her husband, and Isabelle is her distant ancestor living in France during the time of
Feb 28, 2009 rated it liked it
Definitely not as good as Girl with a Pearl Earring. I was really enjoying the first two-thirds of the book, but I didn't like the direction it took after that. There are two parallel stories happening and the modern one is less believable than the one that takes places four hundred years ago. I liked the character Isabelle from the 1500's much better than Ella from modern day. I'll still read more by Chevalier. She has a nice style of writing that totally sucks me in. ...more
Mar 11, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
Surprisingly, this was somewhat a book about a mystery, but it did get me thinking quite a bit, particularly about memories and how they are stored in the brain. Because one of the two main characters "develops" memories from her distant relative (distant being 400ish years ago), I started to wonder about memories and if we will ever figure out a way to "harvest" and save memories to be viewed when "host" is no longer with us. It seems crazy, but maybe at one time, it seemed crazy to think we co ...more
Blondish And Bookish
Like all of Tracy Chevalier's books, this is beautifully written and deeply engrossing. Unlike her other books, this has elements of a thriller!

The story alternates between Isabelle du Moulin (aka “The Rousse” for her copper colored hair) and her distant descendant, Ella Turner. Both are trained as midwives, both are not able to practice their craft (Isabelle's husband Ettienne won't let her, Ella has moved with her husband to France for his work, and she doesn't have the necessary certificatio
Jan 13, 2010 rated it it was ok
Tracy Chevalier is a very frustrating author for me. I liked the first one I read (The Lady and the Unicorn), I adored the second one I read (Falling Angels) and was disappointed with the third (The Girl in the Pearl Earrings). This is the 4th, and once again, disappointed. The thing that disappoints me most is that the subject material is so rich, I can see how the book could be so good. I know nothing about the Huguenots in France and would love to read more. I love history, I love genealogy a ...more
Liz Wright
May 19, 2008 rated it really liked it
Having never read Chevalier’s work I was very pleased with this novel, which is her first. The interesting thing to me was that the story took place at two different times in history but in the same geographic area. The first chapter introduces us to Isabelle, a girl who lives in France in the 1600s during a religious upheaval. Isabelle is seen as odd by her town because of her red hair, which was uncommon at the time. In chapter two we meet Ella, an American who has moved to France with her hus ...more
Jan 18, 2021 rated it liked it
It has similar flavour as Tracy Chevalier's other books but don't isn't quite as great. Still is a good book and I liked that we looked at two different women through time but I wasn't mesmerized by the story and I didn't quite like the end with Ella. ...more
Jan 27, 2009 rated it really liked it
I really loved this book in a lot of ways, but the sense of inevitability, that feeling of descending tragedy that cannot be averted, was so strong and, of course, correct. We were looking at events that had already occurred and those could not be changed. But when we were experiencing them in a present tense I really wished that Isabelle could have found a way out of the life and tragedies that were here destiny, especially for Marie. I was just sick about it. Also found myself in favor of Jean ...more
Mar 14, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library-book
I'm surprised at how much I liked this and how tragic it got. Very well written. ...more
Nov 26, 2008 rated it liked it
This was a very interesting book about two women, centuries apart, linked through blood and circumstances.
Ella Turner moves to France with her husband Rick for his job. She has nothing to do with her days (she was a midwife in the U.S., but cannot yet practice in France) and begins researching her family history.
In nearly every other chapter we read of Isabella, who lived 400 years earlier. She is beginning her adult life with a marriage and child on the way. Forced to give up her beliefs in t
Before penning her bestselling novel Girl with a Pearl Earring, Tracy Chevalier wrote The Virgin Blue, the mesmerizing story of two women living in France 400 years apart. Let me just say that I loved, loved, LOVED this novel! I couldn't bear to put it down and so I read it practically straight through in a matter of hours.

Chevalier's description of the people and towns of France both in present day and in the past are amazingly full of life and incredibly beautiful. It was impossible not to fal
Jun 09, 2012 rated it really liked it
I borrowed this from my housemate because I had thoroughly enjoyed "Girl With the Pearl Earring" years ago. The Virgin Blue is so different from 'Girl' and yet still a great read. I was fascinated with the redhead history (being one myself) and had never heard of Mary as a redhead before! The whole redhead as witch thing is pretty common and always makes me kind of smile...although I guess I hadn't realized it had pushed so far south (it is an old but common belief in northern and eastern Europe ...more
May 02, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: audio-reads
Unfortunatley, not a favorite of mine from this author. I usually really enjoy reading her books but this one, while it started out strong, just came together too quickly at the end and I was left very confused. It was also a bit heavy on the romance for my tastes. The early storyline was interesting and I enjoyed learning about French history but the second storyline was not engaging and felt a bit too false, it didn't really ring true for me. ...more
Jan 23, 2008 rated it liked it
This kinda of has a stereotypical romance novel feel to it- married women meets French man, and they have an affair and that sort of thing. But there is another story besides this one that is really interesting, about her ancestor during medieval times. It follows her as she gets married and raises a family, and the issues she must deal with in her community and home during a time where social rules were changing under religious turmoil. I enjoyed it.
Dec 11, 2008 rated it liked it
I really enjoyed the split narrative (two female narrators, one in the 16th century, the other in the present day), but I wanted more closure than the ending ultimately provided. I'm tired of concluding in a state of liminal possibility. ...more
Jul 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was an amazing book, and the ending was not disappointing at all- except for those I can imagine have little imagination and did not really pay attention to the plot. Tracy Chevalier has completely astonished and moved me with her writing once again.

For those of you who appreciated/liked the ending and would like to read my take on it- please read below. Didn't understand the ending? I think my analysis has some interesting points.


Steve Shilstone
Apr 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
This first in a long line of novels by an extraordinarily inventive and resourceful storyteller visits France of now and 400 years ago.
Jul 18, 2011 rated it really liked it
"The Virgin Blue" is two stories in one. Or possibly two sides of the same story.

In one story, set in modern day, American Ella Turner is a midwife studying for re-licensing after relocating with her husband to France. She investigates her ancestral roots for something to do and becomes intrigued in both her family history and the local librarian, Jean-Paul.

The other story is that of Isabelle du Moulin, a French Protestant woman who marries into the Tournier family and who escapes persecution
May 18, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a very imaginative story and the religious history of early France was fascinating to me. I had to keep going to the internet to read more about it. But it is definitely not as good as Girl With the Pearl Earring and I had a hard time understanding the actions of the modern day character who is researching her family history. The family research was very interesting and kept me really absorbed in the two young women from different centuries, but I did not understand why the modern Ameri ...more
Lydia Presley
Several things were covered in this historical/modern day novel. Part of the story was of Isabelle, a 15th century woman who was "cursed" with having red hair - the same color of hair as the Virgin Mary was portrayed as having. The time period was about the time when the Huguenots were being chased out of France into Sweden. The other part of the story is about Ella, a modern day woman who is researching the mystery behind her family ancestry after a move to France.

In essence, this is partly a h
Jul 02, 2011 rated it really liked it
I really liked this novel. The overlapping stories are fascinating, exciting, and propel a sense of reality that sometimes other fiction can not accomplish. I believe that Tracy Chevalier is a talented writer (story teller) because of her characters, subjects, and environments, in which she places those characters. After watching a short video with her being interviewed about her newest book, "Remarkable Creatures," I realize how her creative mind works and what inspires her. She is very attenti ...more
Jan 30, 2009 rated it liked it
I like Tracy Chevalier's writing. Her books, Girl with a Pearl Earring and Falling Angels were terrific. This book was good and I did finish it, but it fell short compared to her others.

I enjoyed the story of Isabelle du Moulin more so than Ella Turner's story. Isabelle is a tragic heroine and I wanted to learn more about her and her situation. Ella's story, while less tragic certainly, entertained me but did not grasp me. I felt distant from her somehow. I think she created her own problems an
Pamela Mclaren
Nov 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
Two women face life-changing challenges in Tracy Chevalier's "The Virgin Blue."

Isabelle, whose hair changes color to auburn, the supposed color of the Virgin Mary's hair, becomes La Rouse during the time of the Reformation and watches as her community turns away from the Virgin's veneration. All the family's beliefs are challenged, especially as Isabelle's sister and then her mother die. Her brothers leave to fight in a war, never to return. She tells her father that she will marry and she and
Jun 24, 2021 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Even though not stellar, this was a nice read about a contemporary woman and a story about her ancestor from long long (400yrs) ago.

I found the 15th century Isabelle's story stronger of the two - much less typical - and I wanted "more". On the other hand, I could have heard "less" about Ella and her love life - giving her psoriasis made her more interesting for some reason. The magical realism didn't quite work but it was not so annoying that I would discount the read which was engaging.

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19 October 1962 in Washington, DC. Youngest of 3 children. Father was a photographer for The Washington Post.

Nerdy. Spent a lot of time lying on my bed reading. Favorite authors back then: Laura Ingalls Wilder, Madeleine L’Engle, Zilpha Keatley Snyder, Joan Aiken, Susan Cooper, Lloyd Alexander. Book I would have taken to a desert island: Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery.


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