When Scottish professor Maria embarks on a literary biography of George Sand, she finds herself drawn as much into her literary heroine’s way of life as she is her work: Maria simultaneously engages in a lusty, extra-marital affair with a younger man, a la Sand, and a la Sand, must suffer the consequences. Thus begins the novel Becoming George Sand, a theme for both the exploration of Sand’s romances and Maria’s life as explored in Rosalind Brackenbury’s gorgeous, plummy novel.
Unfortunately, I have never read a George Sand novel. I saw the movie Impromptu with a very young, and moody, Hugh Grant as Chopin, a thousand years ago (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0102103/) and that’s about all I ever knew of George Sand, the French novelist who wrote numerous novels, plays, political essays, travel books and kept her correspondence with the greatest minds of her day (1804-76), in addition to having famous lovers Frederich Chopin and Alfred de Musset, among others.
I did however, have the opportunity to meet Rosalind Brackenbury, author of Becoming George Sand, at the San Miguel de Allende Writers Workshop recently. She offered a workshop on Writing About Historical Figures. I approached the tented classroom and saw a striking, thin woman, who reminded me of Vanessa Redgrave. http://rosalindbrackenbury.com We got on quite well in the workshop and I scheduled an hour consult with her on a novel in progress which she reviewed and offered some helpful comments on.
Entranced as I was by her, made it a priority to read her novel. I’m so glad I did.
Becoming George Sand opens with a sex scene. I mention this because Ms. Brackenbury taught a workshop in San Allende and mentioned that said sex scene caught the eye of Margaret Atwood and ultimately Margaret Atwood helped Ms. Brackenbury’s novel find it’s way into publication. (Such are the vicissitudes of fate and may they fall such upon my willing head!) The scene between Maria and her also-married lover Sean at Maria’s home while her husband Edward is at work is an attention-getter.
They do not undress each other, and she rather regrets this, as it always has erotic potential for her. Their undressing is almost businesslike in its swiftness and self-absorption, it’s about getting naked rather than the performance of turning each other on. . . . He glances at her, grins. She’s undoing her bra– and she wants him watching now, and he does, as her breasts fall forwards and the bra drops to the floor — a new bra, but white, not the black she prefers, as she has picked up that he likes a virginal look, or at least a practical one, in underwear. He sees her, and she sees him, just enough now, as his underpants slide off, and so do the rather prim white knickers she has on today, and both are kicked to one side; and then they are together, touching all the way down the length of their naked bodies, that first contact she loves, cool flesh warming fast, nipples rising to the chill air in the room — why does central heating never really warm these tall rooms? — and the weight of his cock rising adjacent her, its thickening and lengthening as she holds it adjacent her stomach.
And you should. Because not only is Becoming George Sand an intelligent, literary examination of modern lives and modern marriages, it is also an overview of, introduction to and explication of the life and loves of George Sand and a meditation upon how her views may have led to, or at the very least heavily, contributed to the modern views of women, sex, sexuality, feminism, femininity and relationships.
Inevitably, as one supposes these things must do, the Maria’s affairs ends with regret on both sides and the modern day insistence on closure results in a final meeting between Maria and Sean.
So, she’s been fitted in before the dentist, and presumably, after lunch. She imagines him staring into a bathroom mirror as he cleans his teeth, bares them to make sure there’s no lunch on them, and satisfied, leaves the house. She knows his house, she’s seen it from the outside. She has no idea about the bathroom. He knows a lot more about her than she does about him; she wonders briefly is this is always true between men and women.
. . .[T]hen he opens his coat to her and draws her inside, as if into a tent, and holds her against him, her head tucked in under her chin, his familiar peppery scent, the roughness of his sweater and scarf, his hand in the middle of her back, pulling her in to him, hard. They stay there for a moment, at the edge of the water, in that stony, icy time and place, and for that moment, a little warmth is conjured back, as she feels beneath her cheek the slow strong steady thud of his heart. She thinks, it isn’t about sex, not now; it’s about knowing somebody in the bone-deep way you know yourself, and to give it up is heartbreak.
Heartbreak for Maria, Edward, and George, over and over. But not for you dear reader, enjoy!
Toast — make toast and have the smell of bread wafting through the house as your book club arrives. It will remind them and you of Maria at home waiting for her family after Sean has left.
Gnocchi — the meal Emily has at her friend’s home
Majorcan Soup — Recipe courtesy of http://www.Spain.Info
Ingredients for 4 people: 3 chopped fresh onions 2 cloves of peeled and finely-chopped garlic 2 chopped leeks (only the white part) 4 large cabbage leaves, cleaned and chopped 80 g of shelled peas 100 g of spinach, washed and chopped 100 g of green beans 100 g of farmhouse brown bread with no salt cut into very fine slices 150 ml of olive oil ½ tsp of paprika Salt
Gently fry the garlic, onion and leeks in a casserole dish, without letting them brown. Add the tomatoes and the paprika. Stir continuously with a wooden spoon, then add the cabbage and pour on a little water. Cook for 15 minutes along with the green beans and the peas. Add the spinach and a tbsp more water, add a little salt, cover and cook for a further 10 minutes. Then drain and put the broth to one side. Prepare an earthenware dish with half of the bread and drizzle with a splash of oil; cover with a layer of well-drained vegetables and place more bread on top, pouring on more oil. Add the rest of the vegetables and dip them with the broth put to one side; Drain excess broth.
They should be served well dry. Drizzle once again with oil and leave to dry a few minutes before serving.
Large Glasses of Red Wine
CHOPIN! Too easy.
Maria — Kate Winslet
Edward — Joseph Fiennes
Sean — Aidan Turner
George Sand — Emmaneulle Seigner
Happy Reading & Eating!