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The Lady and the Unicorn

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3.68  ·  Rating details ·  39,008 ratings  ·  1,849 reviews
A tour de force of history and imagination, The Lady and the Unicorn is Tracy Chevalier’s answer to the mystery behind one of the art world’s great masterpieces—a set of bewitching medieval tapestries that hangs today in the Cluny Museum in Paris. They appear to portray the seduction of a unicorn, but the story behind their making is unknown—until now.

Paris, 1490.  A shrew
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Paperback, 250 pages
Published December 1st 2004 by Penguin Books (first published 2003)
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3.68  · 
Rating details
 ·  39,008 ratings  ·  1,849 reviews


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CatarinaG
Apr 18, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Laura Ana T.
Shelves: favorites, english, ebook
Beautiful! Beautiful! Beautiful!
I found Lady and the Unicorn even better than Girl with a Pearl Earring. I felt utterly transported to the middle ages and immersed in a very good tale, immaculately told.
As she did with The Girl With the Pearl Earring, Tracy Chevalier takes a classic work of art and artfully spins a tale inspired by the original which becomes an original itself.
It was specially fascinating living among the Brussels weavers and coming to understand the magnitude of their task. One
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Julie
In the same vein as her book Girl with a Pearl Earring, The Lady and the Unicorn is a fictional account of the story surrounding the creation of the famed Lady and the Unicorn Tapestries, now housed at the Musee national du Moyen-Age (Musee Cluny) in Paris. This topic was particularly intriguing to me, since I'd seen the tapestries in person back in 2001.

While the book provides a really interesting up-close look at the design and weaving processes, I could have done with out the rest of the stor
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Janice
Jul 14, 2013 rated it did not like it
Shelves: schlock
If I ever read the word maidenhead again in a novel, I will vomit from the flashback of reading this book.
Morticia Adams
Nov 04, 2010 rated it it was ok
I hope someone has pointed out to Tracy Chevalier that if you are going to have seven different narrators for your story, you really need to give each of them a distinctive voice. This is a major failing of this novel, which I found plodding and flat, and lacking in any genuine exploration of character or motivation. The harsh working lives of the weavers are described in some detail but the description doesn't connect with the characters. And also, if you are going to use the first person in a ...more
katherine brown
Jul 24, 2007 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: people who want to waste their time on a terrible book
What I learned from this book is I should never ever read anything by this author ever again. A friend of mine was enthralled by The Virgin Blue and requested I read it. Although I hated it I thought I'd possibly give The Lady and the Unicorn a chance since I love art history. Sadly, I cannot say I liked a single thing about this book. I hated the plot, story, characters and writing style. Hated.
Chrissie
I am impressed. I never thought this book would be as lovely as Girl with a Pearl Earring: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/...! First let me just explain that this is a book of historical fiction. In the Museé National du Moyen-Age we can today see the Lady and the Unicorn tapestries. They are six tapestries, each representing one of our five senses:
sight, sound, smell, touch, taste and the sixth, that one is known as Á Mon Seul Désir, for these words are found woven there. In English the
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Lavinia
May 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019, fiction, in-en
I suppose that's how you write historical fiction (looking at you, Simone van der Vlugt!)

The Brussels section is glorious, with all the weaving details and the particulars of the craft. I'm beyond amazed each time an author takes the hard way and engages in lots of research, such as tapestry techniques in the Middle Ages—setting up looms, threads, colours, dyeing methods and all that jazz—and manages to bring everything together in an enthralling narrative. Also, I'm constantly amazed at how inc
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H.A. Leuschel
Mar 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
I've always wondered about the intricate process of creating a tapestry and in this book I felt like the author had taken me by the hand and patiently brought the creation of six tapestries to life for me, drawing me into the world of fifteen's century Paris and Brussels. Artists, cartoonists, dyers, weavers, seamstresses and financiers were all involved in the creation, months of preparations and planning were followed by months of weaving. In among this interesting setting, we're introduced to ...more
Lizzy
Was hoping to enjoy The Lady and the Unicorn after reading Burning Bright a few years earlier, which is, to be honest, far superior to this. After the action moves away from the Le Viste family, it kind of goes downhill from there. Nicholas is thoroughly unlikeable as a character (whether this was meant to be deliberate or not, I couldn't tell). The only interesting person was Genevieve de Nanterre. Also, what's the deal with Chevalier missing out on the chance to use Jean Le Viste's narrative v ...more
Blodeuedd Finland
Everyone was kind of an idiot in this one.

We have the stuck up nobleman who thinks he is all that.
We have the artist who thinks he is god's gift to women. Ugh, what an ass. I wanted to slap him.
The nobleman's stupid daughter, God, what an idiot.

Then we moved on to Brussels to see the tapestry being made. Ok, that family was better. The daughter was better, but still, oh girl.

I think the only sane person was the maid for the rich family. Sure she made mistakes too, but, I understood her.

But the b
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Pequete
Feb 06, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bookcrossing
3.5 stars. I really liked the description of the weaving process of the Flemish tapestries, starting with the drawings, the daily lives of artisans and nobles, and to imagine life in Brussels at that time. I kept this book so I could read it while visiting the city and it was great to visit some of the places described in it. This being said, I would have liked the book to have more historical information and less romance, which at times even seemed a bit cheesy...
Sarah B.
Mar 18, 2012 rated it did not like it
Shelves: given-away
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Laura
Apr 18, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Laura by: CatarinaG
The story of The Lady and the Unicorn is quite interesting: according to the author they were rediscovered by Prosper Merimee in 1841 and he found them in poor condition. Georges Sand became their champion, writing about them in articles, novels and her journal. In 1992 the French government bought the tapestries for the Musee de Cluny in Paris - where they still hang, restored and in a specially appointed room.
I didn't enjoy this book as much as The Girl with a Pearl Earring. And certainly Chri
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Sotiris Karaiskos
In this book the writer returns to the very successful recipe of Girl with a Pearl Earring and writes a fantastic story about the creation of a well-known artwork. The execution of the recipe is quite different, as many different situations are woven in the story and the narrative is from different angles, but the result is just as positive, although I certainly prefer the first. The book is distinguished for the same virtues, with the author showing us in a very nice way the life at that era an ...more
Rebecca McNutt
Jan 21, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, fantasy, art, france
Surprisingly not having very much at all to do with unicorns, this novel is a very well-written interpretation and fictional explanation for the famous tapestry of a lady and a unicorn in France.
Emma
Nov 19, 2011 rated it it was ok
This book reminded me of why I typically try to have as few preconceptions about novels as possible -- I avoid the summaries on the inside flap/back cover, rarely read reviews past the first few lines, and never examine cover art too closely. Otherwise, I start forming expectations of plot lines, style, and tone for the book, and usually end up (perhaps unfairly) disappointed when the book doesn't measure up.

All that to say, I've seen the tapestries on which this book is based, and I was really
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Ceilidh
Apr 06, 2013 rated it it was ok
Incredibly clunky and just flat-out dull. If you've read Girl With a Pearl Earring you can pretty much track where this story's going to go. It's very predictable and the sexual subplots were laughable in places. Sorry, Ms Chevalier, but this was just not worth my time, even for the really lovely scenes describing the tapestries (and those tapestries are amazing. Seriously, google them).
Pamela
Oct 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
Here is another cleverly written historical novel about a great piece of art by the author of Girl With a Pearl Earring. This time it's the making of the famous Lady and the Unicorn tapestries. Not much is known about them in reality. They appear to have been made sometime at the end of the 15th century in Flanders and are thought to have been commissioned by a member of the La Viste family. There are six in all and they tell a story of taming the unicorn by a series of noblewomen. They also rep ...more
Kelsey
Apr 20, 2008 rated it really liked it
Tracy Chevalier
The Lady and the Unicorn
New York: Penguin, 2004
250 pp. $23.95
0-525-94767-1
“The Lady and the Unicorn,” written by Tracy Chevalier, is a historical fiction novel about medieval French tapestries which depict a woman seducing a unicorn. Although not much is known about the tapestries, Tracy Chevalier has written an excellent love story based on the few known facts. Jean Le Viste, a French nobleman, commissions a Parisian painter, Nicolas des Innocents, to create a set of six tapestri
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Jackie
Jan 18, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Jean Le Viste commissions painter Nicholas des Innocents to design six tapestries that will be hung in a grand hall within his magnificent Paris home. Jean is a conniving, deviously ambitious nobleman with a depressed wife and three daughters. The oldest daughter, Claude is beautiful and falls head over heals for Nicholas. Of course, this love is not meant to be, as Claude is nobility and Nicholas is just a mere painter, not to mention a womanizer and scoundrel, yet he is deliciously appealing. ...more
Yana
Oct 31, 2008 rated it really liked it
A set of medievel tapestries hang today in a chamber in Paris,portaying a women's seduction of a unicorn. The story behind the tapestry is unknown, but Tracy Chevalier weaves fact and fiction to help us unfold the story with her book,"The Lady and the Unicorn".
The story takes place in 1490, Paris about a French nobleman who commisions six tapestries to be made, celebrating his rising status in court. He hires Nicolas des Innocents to design them, but Nicolas adds his own twist to the work and
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Jean Marie
Aug 21, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Sometimes it's those little books that you find on the discount shelf for $2 that are the best. I really didn't know what I was getting myself into with this book, I had never heard of these tapestries before I read the book.
The books mixes the fiction and the history incredibly well so well that I found myself looking up the names to see if they were purely fiction or had actually lived. The main character, aside from the tapestries themselves, Nicolas de Innocents is the painter of the origin
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Deborah Pickstone
I have never quite clicked with Tracy Chevalier. Her subject matter is always attractive to me but the writing I find stiff; it's as if I can't quite get close enough to 'see'....whatever I am missing. So I never quite get involved in her story. My experience of this book followed the same pattern.
Miriam Cihodariu
Jul 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: france, usa, belgium
You can tell from the first few pages that the author really did her homework on the history of tapestries. Everything is very well-documented, from how exactly a tapestry was made to the usual way a Belgian workshop was organized and run. (The best medieval workshops for tapestries were in Belgium).

It's lovely that Tracy Chevalier thought of a way to explain the famous unicorn tapestries in Cluny and how they came to be. Her knowledge of the art world in Paris and how everything was commissione
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Michele
Jun 20, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Oh! What a Tale She Weaves

This is my favorite kind of book. One to pick up, savor each word and never want to put down. Chevalier has a rich imagination, basing this historical fiction on an existing series of fine tapestries with questionable (undocumented) history, and telling the story through (nearly) all involved in their creation.

We begin with the painter, Nicolas des Innocents, who conceptualizes the stories and major symbolisms of the work. A womanizer, he's brash and vain, yet his char
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Tina
Aug 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
Threads of history and fiction interestingly woven together, creating colourful symbolism and story telling.
I have always admired this tapestry and will surely revisit it with new eyes and wonder.
Anna
I read one Tracy Chevalier book before this one, "Remarkable Creatures", and liked it well enough. I enjoyed reading it, although it did not make my list of favorite reads of 2016. It was simple, clear, and not a huge time commitment, and I expected something similar from "The Lady and the Unicorn".

Unfortunately, I was hugely disappointed. Almost every character in this book is a big jerk. I like complex characters and not every character has to be likable, but when every character is unlikeable
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Li Sian
Feb 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
As always, Chevalier writes about the obsessive power of art, sexuality, and (women's) agency with a force that is unparalleled in historical fiction. In some ways, The Lady and the Unicorn is even more impressive than her best-known work, Girl with a Pearl Earring, as her ability to give voice to women - influential in the creation of art and yet marginalized throughout history - is flexed in not just one central character, but three or four. My favourites: Claude, obviously, the best fourteen ...more
Lisa
Aug 20, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is a mesmerizing magic trick! It's like you're watching a shell game and trying to track all of the cups in rotation. Except the cups are couplings.

Also, you find out very early that 'unicorn' is a euphemism for penis. Saucy!
Heather
I liked this one okay. I started to enjoy it more in the second half of the book and that’s what bumped the rating up to 3 stars. The writing wasn’t as beautiful and textured as it was in The Girl With a Pearl Earring, which is one of my all time favorite books. Overall, I thought the writing was flat and felt kind of lifeless. I missed the lush descriptions that made the scenes in Pearl Earring just come alive. I also thought the sexual thread that ran throughout the story lacked the tension th ...more
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Born:
19 October 1962 in Washington, DC. Youngest of 3 children. Father was a photographer for The Washington Post.

Childhood:
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.

Educa
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“I didn't move. I've learned from years of experience that dogs and falcons and ladies come back to you if you stay where you are.” 11 likes
“Warp threads are thicker than the weft, and made of a coarser wool as well. I think of them as like wives. Their work is not obvious - all you can see are the ridges they make under the colorful weft threads. But if they weren't there, there would be no tapestry. Georges would unravel without me.” 5 likes
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