Literary ladies #9: Ella Turner


Literary Ladies is my series where I nerd out for a bit & imagine my favorite literary heroines into the modern world. Email me your suggestions or leave a comment below!

In Tracy Chevalier’s novel The Virgin Blue, the main character, midwife Ella Turner, moves to France with her husband, which sparks the beginning of a journey that she can barely bring herself to believe. Her dreams are arrested by scenes from the life of a Catholic midwife from the 16th century, and as Ella learns more about her French lineage, it becomes clear that fateful forces have drawn her to her family’s ancestral home. Because Ella & Isabella both play active roles, the actress in the lead would have to be versatile enough to play both parts, and speak convincing French. That’s why I chose the beautiful French actress Marion Cotillard for my imaginary film:

via ask

via ask

Like Isabella, Ella and her husband are experiencing marital troubles– Ella spends her days studying French and preparing to become licensed as a midwife in a new country, while her husband’s increasing absence due to work makes it hard for them to communicate meaningfully. Isabella’s husband is abusive and manipulative, taking no care with her well-being or happiness. Meanwhile, Ella finds it hard to connect with locals and neighbors, despite her efforts at learning French and being friendly. Isabella is also a midwife, and furthermore, she is also a former Catholic, whose family converted to Calvinism with the Huguenots’ crusades. She still prays to the Virgin Mary, or La Rousse (a nickname suggestive of her red, red hair), which causes problems within her family and her community, who come to view her as something of a witch. As problems for Isabella increase in Ella’s dreams, Ella connects with a librarian who specializes in local history. As their friendship intensifies, Ella becomes aware that the coincidences between her own story and Isabella’s cannot be coincidence alone.

Ella Turner

For Ella Turner, simple and stylish pieces should be mixed together for the ultimate sense of luxury and good taste. Her style would mesh the classic (khaki shorts, strappy sandals, stacks of bangles and pearls) with the funky (drape-y, near-neon tops; sparkly, ruffly dresses paired with popping blue platforms for nights out dancing). Ella and her husband are financially well-off, and her wardrobe in film format would reflect that. After all, she is able to stay at home, study French and take midwifery classes to update her certification– the luxury of freedom suggests at least moderate wealth. She would choose a bag that both surprises and compliments several of her favorite outfits– just because she’s wealthy doesn’t mean she would be wastefully so. Her base would be neutral, but a flash of color helps her to stand out as an individual in a sea of unfriendly faces. Ella would love classic headbands, pink lips, and understated beauty. Film-Ella would have flawless porcelain skin and hair that changes throughout the film– in the novel, Ella’s hair lightens over time from dark and brown to a fiery auburn, symbolizing the interconnection between her life and the life of Isabella– who is often called La Rousse herself.

This novel was Chevalier’s first, and got far less attention than did her follow-up novel, The Girl With the Pearl Earring. If Pearl Earring was your favorite book of all time, you may not like this one as much, as the writing is not as refined as her later work, however if you can suspend disbelief and just enjoy the how well-crafted the supernatural and spiritual aspects of the book are, you can certainly enjoy it at least as much as the other.

Happy Wednesday, everyone!


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One Response to “Literary ladies #9: Ella Turner”

  1. Wherein I admit that I like seeing my stats be higher than normal « new england noir Says:

    […] frequently posted of all my rambling: Literary Ladies. (You can see some old Literary Ladies posts here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here. The very very first is […]

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