George Sand


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Elizabeth Harlan

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George Sand was the most famous—and most scandalous—woman in nineteenth-century France. As a writer, she was enormously prolific—she wrote more than ninety novels, thirty-five plays, and thousands of pages of autobiography. She inspired writers as diverse as Flaubert and Proust but is often remembered for her love affairs with such figures as Musset and Chopin. Her affair with Chopin is the most notorious: their nine-year relationship ended in 1847 when Sand began to suspect that the composer had fallen in love with her daughter, Solange.

Drawing on archival sources—much of it neglected by Sand’s previous biographers—Elizabeth Harlan examines the intertwined issues of maternity and identity that haunt Sand’s writing and defined her life. Why was Sand’s relationship with her daughter so fraught? Why was a woman so famous for her personal and literary audacity ultimately so conflicted about women’s liberation? In an effort to solve the riddle of Sand’s identity, Harlan examines a latticework of lives that include Solange, Sand’s mother and grandmother, and Sand’s own protagonists, whose stories amplify her own.

Elizabeth Harlan is the author of two novels, Footfalls and Watershed. She lives in Paris.

A selection of Readers' Subscription 

"George Sand is an undeniably impressive achievement. Written in a dynamic style, and deeply researched, this book is not only a biography of a fascinating literary and historical figure but also a compelling work of cultural history."—Annie Cohen-Solal, Professor, Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Paris and University of Caen

"Elizabeth Harlan brings to bright life one of the greatest figures who ever wrote her way into history—in all her genius, passion, and flaws. George Sand is irresistible."—Catharine R. Stimpson, University Professor and Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Science, New York University    

"A bold attempt to penetrate the secrets of a complex and fascinating life."—Jerrold Seigel, New York University

“Elizabeth Harlan uncovers in the overwrought, controlling life of a great writer three generations of parental mistreatment and subterfuge. Tough-minded but compassionate, her unusual biography is painfully believable.”—Kenneth Silverman, author of Lightning Man: The Accursed Life of Samuel F. B. Morse   



“An exhilarating combination of original research and profound empathy and intuition, this riveting biography of George Sand illuminates the ‘maternal’ dynamics that shaped her writings and her relationships with her children and the men she chose as lovers.”—Louise J. Kaplan, Ph.D., author of Female Perversions: The Temptations of Emma Bovary

"[A] penetrating biography."—Bob Trimble, Dallas Morning News

"This absorbing new biography gives us a fresh look at the convention-defying author, delving into the dual issues of motherhood and personal identity so central to her life and work."—France

“[A] perceptive and original biography. . . . Harlan sensitively analyzes the gaps and idiosyncrasies in her subject’s heavily self-edited correspondence, autobiography and novels to uncover a fresh portrait of this volatile, imaginative woman of letters.”—Publishers Weekly

“A riveting story of women struggling, in the grip of secrets and lies, to be free—as engrossing today as it was 200 years ago.”—Janet Bagnall, The Gazette (Montreal)

"The author of this engaging new biography of George Sand . . . brings an original perspective to Sand's much-examined life. . . . At once scholarly and highly readable, this thoroughly researched and documented biography will be of great interest to professional and casual readers alike for its sensitive psychological portrait of the writer and her oeuvre."—Deborah Houk Schocket, The Historian

“This biography is timely, objective, thoughtful and well-written. . . . [Harlan] weaves narrative and analysis into a seamless, insightful and rewarding read.”—Sarah Burton, The Spectator

"This very readable volume, with its solid documentation and fresh interpretations . . . stimulates anew our admiration for  this nineteenth-century woman."—Annabelle M. Rea, French Review
ISBN: 9780300195491
Publication Date: December 13, 2004
400 pages, 6 x 9