Amantine-Lucile-Aurore Dupin, wrote under the pseudonym George Sand. From this book I learned that her identity as a female was broadly known. She dressed as a man to exercise her creative approach to life. The times placed constraints on her personality which were confining to her free spirit. From the author’s notes, I also learned that there are contradictory records of her life. She seemed, from this book, to be a woman who exercised her passion at will and her willfulness often. Needy and brilliant, she was often unhappy and unfulfilled. She was a love-child, later made legitimate when her parents married, shortly before her birth. Her grandmother had been illegitimate and had raised herself well above the class into which she had been born. It was for that reason that she rejected Aurore’s mother, Sophie, as the wife of her son. Her mother was a “woman of the night”. When her son died, she convinced Sophie to allow Aurore to remain under her care to be raised in comfort. For many years, Aurore resented the good life with which she was provided. She was stubborn and disobedient and eventually sent to a convent. When her grandmother grew ill, she had a change of heart, as she did throughout her life toward many others, falling in and out of love and relationships more often than not.
Aurore was tormented by her need for her mother’s love and attention her whole life, and if the presentation in the book is accurate, her own daughter, Solange, was tormented by the same need. Aurore, like her mother, satisfied her own needs first to the detriment of those in her care. She never seemed to find a happy place in her life and always searched for contentment which she, unfortunately, found most often in her many relationships with men and women that did not survive long enough to give her the peace she sought as she moved from love affair to love affair. Somehow, one or another of her partners, or she herself, grew tired of the relationship. She often had a fragile mental state, as did many of her friends and lovers, a state attributed frequently to creative minds. Her marriage was a dreadful failure, and her relationship with her children lacked substance for most of her life as she fled from bed to bed of the men and women she found attractive.
The book did not invite me in, in the way I had hoped it would. Each time I put it down, I was not inclined to pick it back up. It seemed it was not about the creative George Sand, but instead was about the sex life of George Sand which was colorful enough, but not interesting enough to occupy an entire book. The story seemed too obvious. George Sand was dysfunctional, but very talented. Her intelligence impressed those around her and her creativity brought her great success. She lived life in any way she chose, often defying standards of the day with abandon. Many of the people in her life were cruel, even as they were kind, hypocrites even as they demanded more of her in matters of behavior. However, as a person, I did not find her likeable and therefore did not enjoy reading about her rather haphazard existence. Although it is intimated that she thought there should be greater rights for women, her role regarding that effort is not apparent except with regard to her own success as a writer. She seemed overly critical of the faults of others while she ignored her own.
So, the book just didn’t work for me although the story was pleasant enough to read, it was simply too tedious and slow moving and lacking in substance. The one positive experience for me was that because the narrative seemed so thin, it did encourage me to look further into George Sand’s life. Aurore was either Polyanna or a rube, suffering loneliness or surrounded by people, with or without friends, submitting to abuse even as she sometimes abused others with her disregard for their feelings, as she was obsessed by her own. Nothing ever seemed to really happen. She was born, her father died, her mother left, her grandmother raised her, her nanny and teacher were beasts and she finds G-d, loses G-d, marries, but it is an unsuccessful marriage, and she spends the rest of her life sleeping around. End of story, as it begins. She, in a sense, becomes her mother who in her time was described as a whore, though, for sure, she was rather more successful.