Bluebird, Or The Invention Of Happiness

by Sheila Kohler

Other Press | April 17, 2007 | Hardcover

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Bluebird, or The Invention of Happiness is a radiant and artful novel based on the life of Lucy Dillon, an 18th-century French aristocrat. Her intelligence, beauty, and lack of pretension made Lucy a favorite of luminaries like Talleyrand and Germaine de Stael — and equipped her to survive the "Terror" that swept France in the wake of the Revolution. Possessed of considerable wit and practicality, Lucy manages to keep her beloved husband and small children safe while all her former circle, including King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette, are guillotined.

Eventually securing passage on a small ship bound for Boston, Lucy and her family settle in the Hudson Valley near Albany. Exhilarated by the personal and political freedom she finds in America, Lucy views her time there not as "exile," but rather as "opportunity" — and the former palace darling proudly turns dairymaid, establishing a successful farm and embracing all the challenges and adventures the New World presents her.

Format: Hardcover

Dimensions: 432 pages, 8.7 × 5.85 × 1.3 in

Published: April 17, 2007

Publisher: Other Press

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 1590512626

ISBN - 13: 9781590512623

Found in: Fiction and Literature

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– More About This Product –

Bluebird, Or The Invention Of Happiness

by Sheila Kohler

Format: Hardcover

Dimensions: 432 pages, 8.7 × 5.85 × 1.3 in

Published: April 17, 2007

Publisher: Other Press

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 1590512626

ISBN - 13: 9781590512623

Read from the Book

The captain has been at sea for twenty days, going north instead of west, in wild winds, flying light in sleet and snow and a terrific sea, to avoid the Algerian pirates. Two leagues out from the lighthouse called the Tour de Courdoaun, he has been obliged to change course. More than the terrible equinoctial gales, more than the French men-o’-war, more than starvation, he fears the Algerian pirates. He has heard of what they do to their captives: tongues cut off, other parts removed. He knows they prey particularly on American ships, as the American government, unlike the French and the British, has no treaty with them. This is his first command, this sloop, the Diana, a wretched 150- tonner, one mast, wooden latches to the doors, not a bit of brass about it, and the only cargo, the twenty-five cases his French passengers have brought with them. It rolls horribly even in light seas. He can barely stand upright. It is mid-afternoon, but the seas are so high and the swirl of fog so thick, it is impossible to see the bowsprit. The dead-lights have been put up. The captain is used to high seas and fog. He and his first mate come from Newfoundland, that watery and fog-weary place, but he has always feared the sea, has never learned to swim, and has had only a short apprenticeship under Captain Loxley on the Pigow. He has had to order the mainsail furled in this strong wind. Boyd, one of the sailors, has been up the mast to grapple with it. His crew consists only of the first
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From the Publisher

Bluebird, or The Invention of Happiness is a radiant and artful novel based on the life of Lucy Dillon, an 18th-century French aristocrat. Her intelligence, beauty, and lack of pretension made Lucy a favorite of luminaries like Talleyrand and Germaine de Stael — and equipped her to survive the "Terror" that swept France in the wake of the Revolution. Possessed of considerable wit and practicality, Lucy manages to keep her beloved husband and small children safe while all her former circle, including King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette, are guillotined.

Eventually securing passage on a small ship bound for Boston, Lucy and her family settle in the Hudson Valley near Albany. Exhilarated by the personal and political freedom she finds in America, Lucy views her time there not as "exile," but rather as "opportunity" — and the former palace darling proudly turns dairymaid, establishing a successful farm and embracing all the challenges and adventures the New World presents her.

About the Author

Sheila Kohler

Sheila Kohler is the author of six previous novels, including Crossways, The Perfect Place, Cracks, and Children of Pithiviers (all available in Other Press editions). A native of South Africa, she makes her home in New York City and teaches at Bennington College in Vermont.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly Kohler''s writing is often deft....The novel succeeds...in conveying the particulars of Lucy''s life, especially her adaptation to the rigors of American country life. Booklist Sarah Johnson Kohler bases her enchanting seventh novel on the life on Henriette-Lucy Dillon, an aristocratic descendant of Irish Jacobites who becomes one of Marie Antoinette’s ladies. Daughter of a general off defending French interests in the West Indies, the beautiful, witty Lucy is raised by her ill-tempered grandmother. Her arranged marriage with Frédéric Séraphin, the future marquis de la Tour du Pin, becomes one of her greatest joys. She shows her mettle during the Reign of Terror—a scene where she and Frédéric survey the sad ruin of the royal apartments at Versailles is movingly portrayed—by ensuring her family’s last-minute escape aboard a creaky ship bound for Boston. A practical woman determined to make the best of everything, Lucy settles into a new career as a dairy farmer on the outskirts of Albany, New York. Kohler’s elegant, clearly written prose conjures a heroine whose enthusiasm for life and learning is infectious, and whose disarming manner is immensely appealing. One of the best of the recent crop of French Revolution novels, and certainly the most uplifting. More Andrea Chapin Sheila Kohler hitches her sensory-rich prose to a really good story. TimeOut New York Written in elegant, spare sentences t
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Bookclub Guide

1. What purpose does the diary or memoir (the sections in first person and in italics) serve in the novel? Is it a diary or a memoir? Or does it give us Lucy''s inner voice?

2. How does the backdrop of the French Revolution enhance the work?

3. Does Lucy change during the novel and if so in what way?

4. Why does the author give us different points of view? How does this add to our understanding of Lucy?

5. Why does the author give us a detailed description of Lucy''s childhood? Does it help us to understand her courage as an adult?

6. Do Lucy and Frederick have a good marriage in your opinion? And if they do, what is the secret of their entente?

7. What makes Lucy so sure of herself ?

8. Why does the author begin her book with the Captain''s point of view, plunging us into the middle of her tale in this way? Would there have been other moments which might have been appropriate?

9. Would you have liked to know more about Lucy''s life, her return to France, and her subsequent troubles and joys? Why does the author skip so many years in her life?

10. Why is a book about this violent period in France relevant to our lives today? What makes it new?

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