The Story
The Tapestries
First chapter




hen I was a teenager I went through a unicorn craze, the way other girls had horse crazes. I had books, posters, stickers, jewelry – including a prized scrimshaw necklace etched with a unicorn. In one of the books were illustrations of the six Lady and the Unicorn tapestries that hang in the Museum of the Middle Ages (aka Cluny) Museum in Paris. I thought they were very beautiful, and made sure to see them when I visited Paris at age 20. After that I forgot about them.

My memory was refreshed in 1999 when I read an article about them by the Dutch novelist Cees Nooteboom in the journal Art Quarterly. His words and the sumptuous illustrations reminded me of the beauty and power of the tapestries. I also noticed this time that there is much mystery surrounding them – whom they were made for, when, where, how, and why were all questions that couldn’t be answered. Immediately I thought the tapestries would make a wonderful subject for a novel; I would try to answer some of these questions. I was particularly taken with the women depicted in the tapestries, wondering about whether their real lives were as calm and tranquil as they appear on cloth. Somehow I doubted it.

I was also intrigued by the several layers of symbolic meaning in the tapestries: the lady’s seduction of the unicorn, the five senses, the lady’s spirituality. How did the people designing and making the tapestries weave together such different interpretations?

Most importantly, is the lady in the tapestry called A Mon Seul Desir putting on the necklace she holds or taking it off? I wanted most of all to answer that question. Hence the book.