For me, the best historical fiction is not only unputdownable fiction , but just enough actual history to have me researching the real people. The Women of Chateau Lafayette is the 100% the best kind of historical fiction.
What it’s about
From the Goodreads description:
Most castles are protected by powerful men. This one by women…
A founding mother…
1774. Gently-bred noblewoman Adrienne Lafayette becomes her husband’s political partner in the fight for American independence. But when their idealism sparks revolution in France and the guillotine threatens everything she holds dear, Adrienne must choose to renounce the complicated man she loves, or risk her life for a legacy that will inspire generations to come.
A daring visionary…
1914. Glittering New York socialite Beatrice Astor Chanler is a force of nature, daunted by nothing–not her humble beginnings, her crumbling marriage, or the outbreak of war. But after witnessing the devastation in France and delivering war-relief over dangerous seas, Beatrice takes on the challenge of a lifetime: convincing America to fight for what’s right.
A reluctant resistor…
1940. French school-teacher and aspiring artist Marthe Simone has an orphan’s self-reliance and wants nothing to do with war. But as the realities of Nazi occupation transform her life in the isolated castle where she came of age, she makes a discovery that calls into question who she is, and more importantly, who she is willing to become.
Intricately woven and beautifully told, The Women of Chateau Lafayette is a sweeping novel about duty and hope, love and courage, and the strength we find from standing together in honor of those who came before us.
I loved Dray’s America’s First Daughter and was very excited to read this book—The Women of Chateau Lafayette did not disappoint. The stories of the real people involved, especially Adrienne and Beatrice Chanler, are very obviously well-researched and incredibly detailed. The gorgeous writing allowed me to be completely absorbed in all three timelines, and yet still easily switch from 1770s to WWI to WWII and back again. This is a relatively long book, and there is a lot going on between these three stories, but I loved every minute of it, never got bored, and was sort of sad to see it end.
The three strong female characters make this book, and I am not sure I could even pick a favorite. Adrienne, as the wife of the ever-famous and well-loved Lafayette, was a fascinating character and I loved the way her story unfurled: she’s presented as unwaveringly loyal, smart, and dedicated to her family, but she’s also very human and relatable. Beatrice is unflappable, witty, and clever with an admirable determination to live the life she wants and take care of as many people as she can in the process. Marthe, the completely fictionalized heroine, is trapped in difficult circumstances, often conflicted and confused, but fiercely independent and able to find her own strength. Even with all of the tantalizing history happening around them, these women are what make the book great.
I love the way Dray has woven the legacy of Lafayette and the theme of liberty through each of the storylines. As one would expect with stories set in these places and times, there is a lot of heartbreak, sadness, and adversity here, but there are also absolutely breathtaking moments of joy.
I read my NetGalley copy and also supplemented with the audiobook, which is very well done with three great narrators. The author’s note at the end of the audio has even more information on the background of the real characters, as well as the inspiration for Marthe. I highly recommend readers don’t skip the note, and maybe even check out more info on Dray’s choices for this book on her website: https://www.stephaniedray.com
Thank you to NetGalley and Berkley Publishing for my free copy in exchange for this honest review. And thanks to Stephanie Dray for writing incredible books!