I ordered Tracy Chevalier’s book The Lady and the Unicorn from Amazon after traveling down a winding path of searches for historical research/detective fiction similar to The Da Vinci Code or The Rule of Four, but better because all the pieces of great writing would be tied in together. I still haven’t read The Lady and the Unicorn, but it is my next project.
Where am I going with this? I was at Kroger the other day, and a book display caught my eye. I saw a book by Tracy Chevalier that caught my eye. I thought to myself, didn’t she write that book I ordered? This book was called The Virgin Blue. I picked it up and looked at the synopsis on the back cover:
Meet Ella Turner and Isabelle du Moulin — two women born centuries apart, yet tied together by a haunting 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 working on a family of her own. Village life turns out to be less idyllic than she expected, however, and a strange series of events propels her on a quest to uncover her family’s French ancestry. As the novel unfolds — alternating between Ella’s story and that of Isabelle du Moulin four hundred years earlier — a common thread emerges that pulls the lives of the two women together in a most mysterious way.
Okay, that sounded like something I’d like. And it was on sale for several dollars off the suggested retail price. So I put it in my cart and went in search of the milk. I didn’t know it then, but I think that might have been a key moment in my life — my decision to buy that book. After absorbing myself in the book for a few days, looking at the author’s website, and thinking about the ways stories come to us, I realize that I really do want to write more. I do have more stories in me. I just need to sit down, think, and make time to get them out.
The Virgin Blue is Chevalier’s first book. After the success of Girl with a Pearl Earring, I think it was republished in the UK and published for the first time in America. I keep thinking of the threads that tie families together. It has to be more than sharing a similar hair color or nose shape. I think memories are passed down, too. I think I have some of them. I think that might be why some people believe in reincarnation. They don’t know how to explain these flashes of memories or visions about life in another time that seem so clear that it might be confused with their own memories.
The characters in this movie were well-drawn. I liked them all, except for the ones Chevalier didn’t mean for us to like (Etienne Tournier, the awful husband of Isabelle du Moulin). I really liked the storyline, too. Despite shifting between time periods, it was never hard to follow or jerky, and there were often parallels in the two stories. Some people who reviewed Chevalier’s books don’t like the coincidences. I do. I think it speaks to the serendipity of our lives. The twists and turns that take us in unexpected directions. You can play this what-if game. Each person we meet and place we go is like a tapestry we weave into our lives. Pull out a thread and it falls apart. If the color was different, our lives would look totally different. That, to me, is what this book is about. The way we construct ourselves, built on the foundation of our family history. As Faulkner so astutely noted, “The past isn’t dead. It isn’t even past.”