Saturday, February 19, 2022

Review: The Women of Chateau Lafayette

by Stephanie Dray
Release Date: March 30, 2021
2021 Berkley Books
Kindle Edition; 576 Pages
ISBN: 978-0593335932
Audiobook: B08CY9R6W7
Genre: Fiction / Historical
Source: Review copy from publisher

4 / 5 Stars

A founding mother...
1774. Gently-bred noblewoman Adrienne Lafayette becomes her husband, the Marquis de Lafayette's political partner in the fight for American independence.

A daring visionary...

1914. Glittering New York socialite Beatrice Chanler is a force of nature, daunted by nothing--not her humble beginnings, her crumbling marriage, or the outbreak of war. 

A reluctant resistor...

1940.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.
My Thoughts
The Women of Chateau Lafayette was an absorbing book that I thoroughly enjoyed.  I am not typically a fan of the multiple time lines as they are used in so many historical fiction books today simply because I tend to enjoy one much more than the others and wish the author would focus on that one. And while I definitely loved Adrienne's story the best of the three, the other two story lines were fascinating in their own way, even if they weren't quite as absorbing for me.
Adrienne's story line was my favourite, but one of my interests in uni was the French Revolution (the other being the Roman Empire), so anything to do with Lafayette tends to draw my interest.  I loved the focus on the women and how they dealt with the political side of things and I thought the author did a great job trying to show how Adrienne's family manoeuvred the political ups and downs in France during this time period.  This would have been so tricky to do as so much was going on.  I have a pretty solid knowledge of who was who however, but I do think it could be challenging for those who have little knowledge to really understand who had political power during this time period and to keep everyone straight.  I applaud the author's choices as to who she focused on to keep the story easy to understand, which kept Adrienne's story from getting too convoluted.  And gosh, did I like Adrienne.  It would take a brilliant person to be able to navigate the situations that she had to navigate.  Personally, I could have read an entire book just about her.

I didn't know as much about Beatrice going into this story so it was a treat to read her story.  I found her personally relationship with her husband fascinating, but I also found her so interesting simply because of her accomplishments in a time period that didn't accept outsiders in their wealthy echelons.  I don't think the author went far enough showing how remarkable this lady actually was in her accomplishments.  I teach about the world wars and although I knew about the packages she sent to soldiers overseas, I had no idea how many and how involved she was, nor did I know about some of the other endeavours.  I liked how the author showed her vulnerabilities, secrets from her past, through simple things like being upset when losing her hats and having to go without.  It showed how she often hid her true self behind her more chic outer self.  

Marthe's story line I thought was the weakest and I tended to rush through these chapters.  While showing a bit more of the importance of how Lafayette's castle was used during the war, I don't think it really added anything to the story.  I think compared to the other two story lines, it took a long time for Marthe to really do anything to help, and to me, it seemed like the focus was more on her love life than her activities.  I would have preferred to read more about the resistance as there was such a strong element of it in that area during the war.  

The Women of Chateau Lafayette was well-written, but I definitely enjoyed Adrienne's story the best.  And while the book is fairly long, it was worth the ride. The story lines weren't overly disruptive and I found it fairly easy to return to each story, but I do think Marthe's story is the weakest of the three; I was not a big fan of Marthe and her petulance did get on my nerves after a while.  Highly recommend.