The Virgin Blue: A Novel

The Virgin Blue - Tracy Chevalier I chose this book solely because I recently read and loved Chevalier's Remarkable Creatures. The Virgin Blue tells the story of two women from the same family born almost two centuries apart. Ella Turner has recently arrived in France from America and struggles to fit in with the culture and people. To make herself feel more 'French' she starts to research her family's history. Isabelle Tournier is forced to marry into the Hugenot Tournier family after becoming pregnant, but she is tormented and made to feel like an outsider. The family even suspects her of witchcraft. As Ella researches her family history, we find out what happened to Isabelle.Score: 3.5 out of 5The Virgin Blue was engagingly written and easy to read. Even though it was possible to tell where things were going from quite soon into the book, I found myself wanting to carry on reading it to find out as quickly as possible. So it was a page turner. But it also felt very much like a debut novel in terms of writing style and plot - the writing was a bit clunky at times and some of the plot connections felt a bit contrived. Chevalier's writing just wasn't as polished as it was in Remarkable Creatures.What I did really enjoy about it was the way Chevalier wrote the relationships between all of the characters, from both time periods. There were no 'easy way outs' for either of the women - they fell in love with the wrong men, were betrayed by friends and had to face up to difficulties. I enjoy reading about family relationships in general, so that part of the book was good to me.I also enjoyed the historical aspect of the novel. I knew nothing about the Hugenots before reading The Virgin Blue, and Chevalier dealt with the religious conflict well. However, it was though she wanted to make the connection between the two women apparent at all times, which led to the characters having premonitions/dreams and a spiritual connection, even reciting the same words at the same time. Any kind of mystical stuff like that really does put me off and I don't think the novel needed it - it would have worked perfectly fine with Ella just researching her family.So well worth a read, but not a favourite. My next Chevalier will be Girl With a Pearl Earring.