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). Awarded four stars on Goodreads.
Each of the three women has a compelling story:
- Adrienne de La Fayette is General Lafayette’s wife. An intelligent and fierce heroine, she shares her husband’s passion for freedom, fights behind the scenes to promote it (in both The American Revolutionary War and The French Revolution), and makes dramatic sacrifices for her family and principles.
- Beatrice Chanler is an early 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 exhaustive activities that helped France during the early years of World War I and for encouraging a reluctant United States to enter that war.
- Marthe 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 World War II 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 so you won’t have to spend energy puzzling out some “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.
More about the bestselling author, Stephanie Dray.