Largely expanded from her previous literary study, Chopin's Funeral (2003), Eisler's latest explores the ways in which the early French novelist Sand (1804–76) extracted her literary, intellectual and political sustenance from her numerous lovers.
As notorious for her free-loving personal life and cross-dressing fashion as for her atmospheric, revolutionary novels, Sand, née Aurore Dupin, learned early on that freedom for a woman was gained through linking oneself to a powerful man. Eisler goes well into this pleasant-going study on Sand's early sense of abandonment by her mother, Sophie Delaborde, a “pure-blooded daughter of the proletariat” and probable prostitute whose livelihood in Paris ensured that her daughter would be raised by her formidable grandmother at Aurore's dead father Maurice Dupin's Nohant estate. Sophie essentially sold her daughter to the rich Dupin relatives, and the tug of war between Aurore's grandmother and mother took its toll on the young girl. Liaisons with strong, intelligent men formed her early development, while marriage to minor Gascon Baron Casimir Dudevant brought her stimulation and travel, as well as two children. Separation and a dizzying succession of lovers—including affairs early on with the much younger Jules Sandeau, from whom Sand fashioned her nom de plume, and Le Figaro's powerful editor Henri Latouche—launched her on a literary career. Her first novel, Indiana (1832), about the failure of a miserable marriage set in a typically exotic outpost, swept Paris and set the tone for a succession of romances about proto-feminist relationships: Valentine, Lélia, Mauprat, etc. Curiously, Sand was also mightily attracted to weak-willed, brilliant younger men who needed maternal nursing, such as Alfred de Musset and Frédéric Chopin, and Eisler does a fine job of trying to integrate the many sides of this complex writer and political activist without capitulating to her charm and fame. Indeed, Eisler remains a rather severe moral critic of this fascinating, and rule-bending, personality.
Eisler skillfully incorporates much correspondence within a frame of lively writing.