The Women of Chateau Lafayette

Berkley. Mar. 2021. 576p. ISBN 9781984802125. $27. F
Most castles are defended by heroic men. The remote Château de Chavaniac, birthplace of the Marquis de Lafayette, is protected by women. Dray (My Dear Hamilton) writes a multigenerational saga of three such defenders. During the widespread discontent and bloodbath of the French Revolution, unbearable decisions face Lafayette’s spirited, nobly born wife Adrienne. Amid the devastating carnage of World War I, visionary philanthropist Beatrice Astor Chanler, who determinedly rose from rags to riches, uses her wealth and influence to ease the plight of French soldiers and creates an orphanage. During World War II, Marthe, a teacher and sculptor who grew up in the chateau, bravely applies her art to saving Jewish children in Nazi-occupied France. Chavaniac, symbol of steadfastness, with its hidden tunnels, is a dramatic stage for resistance. Defiant, each of these inspiring women shelters children and changes the political landscape using resources unique to her. Love, strength, and wrenching loss spur each woman to examine what she can do in the face of horrible events. This book establishes a subdued, steady tension that never releases its grip.
VERDICT Dray uses lavish historical detail in this extensively researched, sweeping novel. Recommended for fans of Edward Carey’s Little and the works of Michelle Moran.
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