The Dream Lover by Elizabeth Berg

April 16, 2015 Historical Fiction 19

Bonjour Bookworms,

Sometimes songs get stuck in my head and it’s a book’s fault. Occasionally, it’s because a song is mentioned in a book. Sometimes it’s because the song and the book just go together. Sometimes it’s because they share a title. I probably should have been kind of suspicious of Elizabeth Berg’s new novel, The Dream Lover, when it succeeded in getting a Mariah Carey tune stuck in my head. My 10 year old self didn’t make up a dance routine to “Dreamlover” or anything. That would definitely did not happen… *I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley for review consideration. I pledge on my right to wear pants that the following opinions are uninfluenced by the fact that I didn’t have to purchase this book.*

dreamloverThe Dream Lover is about scandalous 19th century novelist George Sand. She not only took on a man’s name for her nom de plume (rather a fad in those days. Just ask the Bronte sisters… Erm… “Bell” “brothers”) but she also dressed like a man and had extra marital affairs while hobnobbing with Paris’s intellectual elite. As one does. The most famous female writer of her time, Sand had an impressive list of friends and lovers including Frederic Chopin, Gustave Flaubert, Franz Liszt, Eugene Delacroix, Victor Hugo, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and probably all the other famous writers, actors, artists, and musicians in Europe at the time. She was terribly popular. Salons, you know. And not the kind in which I have my hair dyed. The fancy kind with the thinking and the art and the discourse. Elizabeth Berg takes on Sand’s story from a first person perspective and tackles love, family, loneliness, and companionship.

This book sounded like it would be everything I loved. Ladies succeeding in a man’s world? Celebrity name dropping? Historical fiction? Cross dressing? It seemed like the perfect book for me. Until it wasn’t. I’ll admit I wasn’t at all familiar with George Sand’s story and I’ve not read any of her work (though I totally dig the work of some of her pals.) I think, for me, things went badly because it was written in the first person. It got very introspective, which is incredibly difficult to pull off when you’re writing about a historical figure. I found the life of George Sand fascinating, but I think I would have enjoyed reading about it more as non-fiction. (I know! Who is writing this, and what have you done with Katie, right?!) I struggled getting into this book and never really hit a stride. To be completely honest, I very nearly didn’t bother finishing the thing. I managed to finish (because DNF guilt), but I’m afraid The Dream Lover simply wasn’t the book for me. Just because the book wasn’t a winner for me, though, doesn’t mean it won’t be for you, my darlings. If you are a big fan of George Sand, introspection, and 19th century-esque prose, run, do not walk, and check out The Dream Lover.

Tell me something, Bookworms. At what point do you  give up on reading a book that isn’t ringing your bells? If I’ve made it to the halfway point I try my darnedest to finish it, but I’d like to know how long y’all give it before throwing in the towel.

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

19 Responses to “The Dream Lover by Elizabeth Berg”

  1. Megan M.

    I used to suffer from DNF guilt, too, until I got a severe case of the F**k-its, from which I have not recovered. If at any point a book is not working for me, I quit. If there’s some reason I still want to know the ending, then I just skim like mad until I get there (and usually find that it was stupid, anyway.)

  2. Leah

    I have no shame when it comes to DNFing. Throughout my childhood and into high school I refused to abandon a book and no matter what I was hellbent on finishing…which led to me reading some seriously awful novels.

    After a few years of blogging, however, I’ve come to realize that there’s just no time to spend on a book I’m not loving – whether it’s my own or a review copy I received from the publisher. Before buying/accepting a book, I do my best to really pay attention to the synopsis, blurbs, anything to give me a good idea of whether or not it’s a Me book, so I tend to have good luck with my reads these days.

    That said, there have been some that just didn’t work for me. Novels that sounded great like A Touch of Stardust, The Night Garden, and Vanessa & her Sister were all duds and I would have felt worse had I stuck with them. Instead, I moved along and have read some really great books since then.

  3. ThatAshGirl

    It’s REALLY difficult for me to abandon a book. It depends on how early I’ve decided it’s a write off and how much I’m not into it. If it’s extreme or really early on, I’m ok to abandon but I can count on one hand my DNF list.

    ps. I love that historical fiction and cross-dressing is in your win list 😉

  4. Rhian

    I can count the number of books I’ve abandoned on one hand. However, I have a number of books that I’ve been “reading” for years. Ahem. Maybe I need some of Megan’s F**k-its.

  5. AMB

    It’s an interesting premise for a fictional work, but I think I’d prefer a nonfiction version too. Great review!

  6. Melissa

    I DNFed this book at about 50%. I have no problem marking a book as DNF but I try to read at least a third of it to give it a chance. This one felt like a boring non-fiction. I think the author tried to cover too much of Sand’s life. In my opinion she should have picked one small episode, like her affair with Chopin and gone more in depth.

  7. Somer

    Wow, I’m really stubborn. I think I’ve only abandoned like 2 books ever. My reasoning is kind of 2fold. One, I’ve already put in this much time to start the book, may as well finish. Two, I’ve too much faith in authors that at some point, the book will pay off and I’ll be glad I’ve stuck with it. Very rarely is a book so awful that I get pissed I’ve wasted my time.

    My book club just completed a year together. And I kid you not, I’m the single person in the entire club that finished every book. Sigh. Especially for the purposes of book club, I feel like it’s even more important to complete a book. Then you have 100% rights to complain about how awful it was and why. So much more fun to argue with someone that way.

  8. Jenny @ Reading the End

    I don’t know anything about George Sand, except that the Brownings really liked her. They were always defending her to each other in their letters before they were married. It was sweet. (Like everything the Brownings ever talked about in their letters to each other before they were married.)

    I DNF books all the time. As long as I’m not reading it for an obligation, like a book club, I feel no guilt. It’s better I don’t force myself to continue — that way still leaves room for me to go back to it another time if I feel in the mood for it, or if another blogger recommends it really strongly.

  9. Catherine

    Yes. Yes. And yes. I felt exactly the same way you did about this book right down to the wanting to know more about Sand but in non-fiction. But because I lack your moral fiber I did not finish the book. I could not reconcile the Sand as she presented herself- fearless- and all the whining about needing a perfect man to love. WTH?

    Because I so completely agree with you about this book I am going to forgive you for sticking Mariah Carey in my head.

    • Words For Worms

      You didn’t miss much, I’ll tell you that. I love when we’re on the same wavelength… And thank you for forgiving me re: Mariah Carey. I’m not sure I’ve forgiven myself yet.

  10. Katie @ Doing Dewey

    Oh no! I’ve been having trouble being in the mood for this one, so I’m sorry to hear it wasn’t the best for read you. I have a backlog of ARCs to get caught up on, so I think I’ll probably keep putting this one off for a while.

  11. Isi

    Ohh what a shame, because as you were telling what it was about, I thought I would also go for it, because it sounded like my cup of tea. But I’m not going to discard it anyway, just in case.

    About giving up with books, I usually do it (when I do it) in the first 30 pages; sometimes that little is enough to know that you are not enjoying!

  12. Melinda @ The Book Musings

    Shame that it ended up something you didn’t love. I hate when that happens, when a book sounds like something you’d definitely want to read and then it ends up disappointing you 🙁

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