Before she introduced the world to Griet, the heroine of her New York Times bestselling novel Girl With a Pearl Earring, Tracy Chevalier wrote another book, never published in the United States. "A beautiful story shot with vivid colors," (The Times, London) The Virgin Blue is a novel of passion and intrigue that compels readers to the very last page.
In The Virgin Blue, Tracy Chevalier transports us back to 16th-century France during the development of the Protestant Reformation and the subsequent persecution of the Huguenots-followers of John Calvin's preaching of the "Truth." Isabelle du Moulin-called "La Rousse" for her copper-colored hair-is tormented and shunned by her hardworking, God-fearing Huguenot community, suspicious of her lingering adoration for the Virgin Mary, her skills at midwifery, her mysterious association with wild wolves, and her fiery red hair. Pregnant with an illegitimate child, Isabelle marries above her station-into the severe Tournier family, outwardly stoic followers of the Truth who covertly adhere to older, pagan superstitions.
More than four centuries later, Ella Turner, an American, and her husband Rick move to a small town in France. While in France, Ella hopes to brush up on her French, qualify to practice as a midwife, and start a family. Village life turns out to be less than idyllic when dreams of a disturbing color blue get between her and her plans. Her nightmares of the color blue, and her father's suggestion, lead Ella investigate her French Huguenot ancestry, trace their flight into Switzerland following the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre, and unearth the sinister secret the family has buried for four hundred years. However, this task is not an easy one. Ella, knowing little more than her family's original surname, Tournier, begins her research at a local library, finding only a negligible amount of information on her ancestry. During her quest, she befriends Jean Paul-a dark, handsome, Byronic librarian, whose magnetism becomes increasingly difficult to resist-and discovers too many parallels with the past to dismiss as coincidence. The one afternoon, Ella discovers her brown hair inexplicably begun to turn red…
Alternating between the stories of Ella and Isabelle, The Virgin Blue is a haunting tale of ancestral legacies set against a dazzlingly descriptive portrait of French provincial life today, as well as of the hardships-and harsh beauty-of life in the sixteenth century.