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Gripping historical fiction about three strong women, all connected to the childhood home of Gilbert du Motier, better known as the Marquis de Lafayette, that same French general who helped Americans win The Revolutionary War (aka "the Lancelot of the revolutionary set" from Hamilton: The Musical). Each of the three women has a compelling story: 1. Adrienne is Lafayette's wife. An intelligent and fierce heroine, she shares her husband's passion for freedom, fights behind the scenes to promote it (in revolutions in both America and France), and sacrifices repeatedly for her family and principles. 2. Beatrice Chanler is a 20th century socialite, who rises from rags to riches by marrying the wealthy William Chanler. Both are actual historical figures. Despite her showgirl background, Beatrice becomes known for her active role in helping France during the early years of World War I and for encouraging the United States to enter that war. 3. Marte Simone, the only one of the three women who is fictitious, is teaching at a school housed at the old Lafayette chateau in 1940. As the war unfolds, she is forced to decide whether to hang onto her lifelong commitment to self-preservation or put the safety of others ahead of her own. All three stories are related, as they usually are when authors employ this "multiple-stories" device in novels. But the connection doesn't matter as much in this one. Each story is captivating on its own and you won't spend time trying to figure out the "big mystery." So, why didn't I give it five stars? One small reason and one big one: • The small one is a few passages where characters hit you on the head with over-the-top political statements that are completely unnecessary. For example, the novel ends with one about the nature of war. Fortunately, there are not THAT many of these show-stoppers. • The bigger reason is that as much as I enjoyed reading the book, and as interesting as each story was, frankly, the book felt LONG at times. 576 pages in the standard edition. I can't help but think it would have been stronger with a bit more judicious editing.
3 people found this review helpful
I received a free electronic ARC of this historical novel from Netgalley, Stephanie Dray, and Berkley Press. Thank you all for sharing your hard work with me. I have read this novel of my own volition, and this review reflects my honest opinion of this work. Stephanie Dray breathes life and heart into these characters, many modeled on historical figures from this place, this time. We visit Chateau LaFayette in Chavaniac, France in three different time periods, and watch as it is transformed from a pastoral feudal retreat, large but not grand, into a self-sufficient preventorium and school housing many many children, many of them orphans, away from the death and destruction of war-torn Europe. In 1774 gently-bred noblewoman Adrienne Lafayette and her husband, the Marquis de Lafayette, are actively supporting the French government's support and backing in the fight for American independence. With Europe embroiled in The Great War in 1914, we follow New York socialite Beatrice Chanler who, after witnessing the devastation in France firsthand, takes on a reluctant President Wilson and faces the burden of convincing America to repay the French who backed our own independence by coming to their aid as the Nazis strip France of its resources, it's laws, it's pride, and it's people. In 1940 French artist Marthe Simone, an orphan raised at the school in Chavaniac and now teaching there has an orphan's self-reliance and wants nothing to do with war. But as the realities of the Nazi occupation transform her life even in the isolated castle where she came of age, she understands that France under any other form of government would never again be home. Only with the heart and grit of every Frenchman left can France survive and recover.
2 people found this review helpful
The Women of Chateau Lafayette by Stephanie Dray is unique historical novel. I thought this book was well-written with developed characters. We learn about the history of the Chateau Lafayette and three strong women. It was fascinating learning about Lafayette and his wife, Adrienne as well as Beatrice Astor Chanler. Beatrice is a bigger-than-life character and a fascinating woman. She is a lively woman with a zest for life. Beatrice was a determined woman who was intelligent and courageous. I enjoyed Beatrice’s storyline the best (as you can tell). Adrienne was a woman of strong faith and abiding principles. It can be confusing switching between the three storylines as you try to keep track of the various characters. I can tell the author did her research. It is full of historical information from the three time periods (French Revolution, World War II, Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, slavery, anti-Semitism). Stephanie Dray is a detail-oriented writer which brings the scenes to life. I did feel that there was too much detail at times when a room or person would be described down to the tiniest detail. This type of detail can slow down the pacing of the story. The Women of Chateau Lafayette does contain some foul language, a lesbian flirtation, intimate situations, and violent situations. This is a long story that could have done with some editing (it would have made it a better book in my opinion). The Women of Chateau Lafayette is good historical novel that will appeal to those who love history. I liked how the three storylines intertwined and provided a complete picture. I appreciated the epilogue and author’s note. The Women of Chateau Lafayette is a well plotted book that intrigue historical fiction lovers.
3 people found this review helpful