The Devil’s Pool- George Sand   Leave a comment

This is a book from my ‘1001 books to read before you die’ list. It is written by George Sand; the pseudonym of Amantine Lucile Aurore Dupin (1804 – 1876). She was a French novelist, equally well known for her affairs with a number of artists, particularly with Frédéric Chopin.

She was known as “Aurore”,born in Paris, but raised for much of her childhood by her grandmother, at her estate, Nohant, in the French province of Berry.

This novel is first in a series of four pastoral novels based on her childhood; it was followed by ‘the country waif’ (François le Champi).


Germain has been a widower for two years, and his wife left behind three young children. It is the opinion of his family that he needs to take a new wife. Germain goes to visit a friend, of his father-in-law, at a farm about half a day’s ride away, to visit the daughter, a rich widow who is looking to remarry.

Germain does not really want to remarry, but agrees. He takes presents, goes on saturday, intending to spend the night and return Sunday.

Before setting off, Germain learns that his neighbor Marie, a sixteen year old shepherdess, has got a position at a farm near to where Germain is headed and needs a ride. Of course Germain takes her along. After they have set off, they find Germain’s little boy, Petit Pierre, hiding, determined to come with them, so they now are a party of three.

Along the way, they become lost in the mists of the forest as night falls, they make camp beside a small pond. This is later revealed to be the Devil’s pool—a place where it is believed that passers-by are bewitched and their luck turns bad.

Germain sees how mature and sensible Marie is with his child and the situation, and starts to fall in love with her, but she insists that he is too old for her and that she does not love him.

The next morning, Germain arranges for Marie to take care of his boy as he goes to see his perspective bride.

Things however do not go to plan. Germain arrives to find the widow, already being courted by a three suitors. She appears to be more interested in using the suitors for her own gain rather than to marry. He soon leaves in disgust, to pick up his son at the nearby farm where Marie is staying, but when he arrives, neither are anywhere to be found.

After some searching, he finds them frightened and hiding in the forest and learns that her new employer had made indecent advances to Marie, expecting her to accept this as part of her job tending sheep. The three reunite and head home.

The ending is somewhat obvious, but Sand was more interested in her opportunity to depict the rural characters of her childhood, than to tell a story. She wanted them to be seen as simple, virtuous people who had close ties with nature, and were still celebrating their ancient Gallic customs and traditions.

This explains the extreme detail used in the wedding.

Sand’s peasants respond to the hardship of their lives with unyielding stoicism and are upright, moral, sensible and respectable. Her view of life was somewhat idealised, there is no squalor or true suffering. These people are a long way from those peasants of Hardy or contemporary Russian authors.

I enjoyed this simple story a lot, although i found the characters overly idealised, I appreciated the previously unknown information about these peoples of internal France.


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