Valentine by George Sand
I have been reading George Sand’s novels in and among other books, including Indiana, Mauprat, Consuelo, The Countess of Rudolstadt, and this book. The story of Sand’s life, including her cigar-smoking, pants-wearing, and Chopin-loving, are better known in English than her fiction, which until recently was not easy to find. I’m not sure what I expected. Her writing is lush, overripe, passionate, unevenly plotted, desperately dramatic; sometimes the books are so wretched (Rudolstadt, for instance) that it’s a chore to finish them. Her characters throb, tremble, weep, moan, pace the floor, take walks at midnight in dangerous castles and forests, endure abductions, betrayal, visitations; it is safe to say that there is nothing like her writing anywhere else. It is tempting to sound wiser than I am and declare that she is French through and through, but I’ve only ever been to France for three days and only know about France what I hear people say. But she is much more emotional, romantic, and florid than any other French writer I have read (in translation, of course) other than, perhaps, Genet. Valentine is of a pattern with the other books, full of descriptions of love so intense that it bursts liquid up from the page. I am in awe of her not because she is transcendent or elegant or fine but because she stuffs her pages so full of emotion that it’s at times absurdly funny. Yet still I read her and like her. This is not so much a review of Valentine as it is a chance to talk about Sand in general. Every time I finish a book of hers I swear it will be the last one. This one may in fact be it. Though there are so many more left to sample.