The Women of Chateau Lafayette by Stephanie Dray

“The Women of Chateau Lafayette” (2021) by Stephanie Dray follows three women through four wars. One thread that connects the novel’s characters is Chavaniac, or the Chateau Lafayette, the marquis de Lafayette’s childhood home. Another thread is the women’s commitment to Lafayette’s ideals of freedom. The three women of Chateau Lafayette include Adrienne, a noblewoman, Beatrice, a former dance-hall girl, and Marthe, an orphan.

Adrienne and Gilbert Lafayette married in 1774 when she was 14 and he was 16 years old. Three years later, a pregnant Adrienne sent her husband to fight in the American Revolutionary War. While in America, Lafayette made a name for himself as a hero. He then brought his ideals of freedom for everyone to France where they were met with mixed results. Dray’s book then follows Adrienne through the turmoil of the French Revolutionary period.

Socialite Beatrice Astor-Chandler worked to support France before the U.S. entered WWI. She used her connections to raise large amounts of money to purchase supplies for the French soldiers. Eventually she and her husband purchased Chavaniac, turning it into an orphanage.

Marthe was raised at the Chavaniac orphanage during the latter part of WWI, then went on to teach at the orphanage. She used her artistic talents to make her corner of France a better place in spite of WWII and the Nazi presence in France.

If you don’t like reading a book that moves through different time periods, this is not the book for you. The chapters are short, and rotate through each woman. Sometimes the women are tackling similar issues through the rotation, including relationship trials and facing down enemies. Each woman has her own distinct personality. 

I found all three of the women’s stories equally interesting, so I didn’t enjoy one storyline more than another. However, I did read “The Women of Chateau Lafayette” with a Wikipedia tab open. I discovered Chavianic is a real place, and further explored the history of some of the more remarkable characters.   

The author was kind enough to include an Author’s Note explaining which characters were real (most of them were), and which events actually happened. “As in all my historical novels, the most outrageous bits are true,” says Dray.

I would recommend “The Women of Chateau Lafayette” by Stephanie Dray to anyone who enjoys women-centric historical novels, particularly those that happen during war-time. You can find this title at the Gering Public Library on the shelf next to “America’s First Daughter” which Dray wrote about Patsy Jefferson Randolph. Dray joins a number of authors writing about women during war-time, including Lauren Willig, Martha Kelly, and Kate Quinn.

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