The Dream Lover by Elizabeth Berg is a novel about George Sand’s life or about her life as Berg has imagined it, which she herself admits. Because there are so many conflicting stories about Sand’s intimate life, Berg had the creative freedom to choose what would best fit her narrative intention. Certainly, if even half of the rumors about Sand are true, she led a book worthy life.
I have always enjoyed Berg’s novels for their gentle slice-of-life focus on middle class America, putting ordinary people in not so extraordinary circumstances and just letting them live. The domesticity of her books is a pleasant surprise and her characters are familiar even though they don’t always do the expected. So I was curious to see what Berg, a contemporary American writer, would do with a character born in another time and place. Could she write a lovely novel about a very non-traditional woman and make her feel like someone you could meet any day of the week?
Yes, she can, I am thrilled to say. Berg is not a challenging author but she doesn’t shy away from the more challenging aspects of Sand’s own life. If you are unfamiliar with Sand’s life, a quick search will reveal that she liked to dress in men’s clothing. She also had numerous, sometimes notorious, lovers. She was admired in her day, considered to be one of the great minds of her time. And even if you’ve never read one of Sand’s numerous novels, you can enjoy this novel. (Perhaps it will inspire you to read one or more for yourself.)
Berg does a good job of picking and choosing the events, and rumors, to use for her novel. She also chooses to write the novel in the first person, making this larger-than-life character somehow intimate and less foreign. I enjoyed this novel more than I dared hope and am glad that Berg is stretching her creative wings beyond her oeuvre. She took on a challenge and succeeded in meeting beautifully.