The Women of Chateau Lafayette is Stephanie Dray’s masterpiece. She previously co-authored books about Jefferson’s daughter and Hamilton’s wife and this time she takes on Lafayette’s wife without her usual co-writer Laura Kamoie.
The book carefully weaves the story of three women whose lives center around Lafayette’s castle in Chavaniac, France. The first protagonist is Madame Lafayette herself, starting in 1774 with her wedding to the country bumpkin Lafayette, and progressing through both the American and French revolutions. The second is Beatrice Chanler in 1914, a socialite married to a Vanderbilt with a mysterious background, an adventurous absent husband, and the power and desire to get Americans to support the war effort. The third is Marthe Simone in 1940, an orphan raised in the castle who has to face the hardships and struggles of the second world war.
Dray does a great job of making the three stories fit and parallel each other. In all three, these women are fighting for freedom and independence for their country, and the goal of having America and France support each other in this fight. Dray has done her homework and does an excellent job of making you feel part of these three different time periods and knowing these three women. All three of the women are brave and have strong morals, you will be rooting for all three of them!
The book is long, weaving three stories takes well over 500 pages. Dray includes over a dozen pages of author notes where she tells you what is real, what she made up, and where she either changed the timeline or the characters.
I keep saying how I am over historical novels about World War II and then another one comes along that captures me. This is one of those (although technically it is only 1/3 World War II). I highly recommend this book, I am sure you will learn something about these times in history that you didn’t know before.