By: Stephanie Dray
My Goodreads Review: 3/5 Stars
“Because the world always snuffs out fire, and every generation must bring light from darkness again.”
This book takes place in three different periods and is narrated by three different women. Marthe is the first woman we meet, and her storyline begins at the start of World War II at Chateau Lafayette in Chavaniac, France. Marthe was orphaned as a baby during the Great War and has lived her life in the orphanage at Chateau Lafayette ever since. Now that she is grown, she would like to explore the world and leave Chavaniac, but World War II halts all her plans. The next woman we are introduced to is Adrienne. Adrienne is an actual historical figure whose story has been slightly altered to fit this book. Her story takes place in pre-revolutionary France. She and her family are part of the aristocratic class, and we read about her experiences through the French Revolution and onwards. Lastly, we meet Beatrice, also based on the real person. Her story begins at the start of World War 1. She is an independent, fierce American socialite married to a well-regarded man, William Chanler.
“Many exchange vows, rings, and kisses, but let us exchange hearts. That way you will never be alone; I will always be with you, for you will have, and be, my own dear heart.”
I am sorry to say, but I didn’t love this book. The worst part is I can’t really pinpoint why I don’t love this book. The storylines were all different and showed three world events through the perspectives of strong female characters, some fictional, some not. However, I found myself not tied to either one of the stories, never fully drawn into the characters or the premise. The character I was least drawn to would have to be Marthe. Although her story was compelling, and she made some very courageous decisions, I just didn’t connect with her story. I thought maybe it lacked excitement but, when excitement came, I still wasn’t interested. Also, this book is really really long. Each of the women could have easily had their own book, and maybe that’s why I couldn’t connect with any of them. I felt like I was constantly trying to remember what happened to that character 2-3 chapters before.
The good news is I learned a lot from this book, especially when it came to Adrienne and her husband, Gilbert Lafayette. I must admit I know next to nothing about American history but, I would never have guessed a French aristocrat would have played such a vital role in the American Civil War. The Lafayette story completely blew me away, from the strength and heroism of Adrienne to her independent thinking husband, Gilbert. Truly a remarkable couple in history that needs more recognition. It was also interesting to see how their home and legacy lived on, affecting even people living through World War I and II. These were the parts of the book I liked, which is why I still gave this book 3/5 stars.
The only woman I haven’t mentioned yet is Beatrice. The reason is that I don’t quite know what to make of her story. She showed a very different type of hero, mother and wife. I liked her spunk and confidence but, I didn’t love how much of an absentee mother she was. She seemed to always put the war and the war orphans before her children. She risked her life on numerous occasions, potentially leaving her kids motherless, claiming to do it for the cause. I don’t think mothers need to stay at home and watch their children all hours of the day, seven days a week but to be gone for months and years at a time seems a bit too much, especially when the kids have an absentee father; their nanny is mostly raising them. I know she was doing incredible work for the war, but she is helping children who have lost their parents while risking orphaning her own. I struggled with her character.
“No one is born a hero; it’s something you have to find inside yourself. Once upon a time, even Lafayette was just a boy like you.”
This book had the potential to be amazing but, it missed the mark for me. Each of the storylines showed the reader a different world event but seemed to lack something in intrigue. I learned a lot about the French Revolution and some important female heroes from various wars, but, overall I wasn’t captivated by this story. That being said, I haven’t written off Stephanie Dray entirely; I will try and read another one of her books in the future.
“Oh, I remember, my dear. Your unwavering faith renewed my own, reminding me that rebellion against tyranny is obedience to God.”
Have you read any of Stephanie Dray’s books? If so, which one would you recommend I read next?