The Women of Chateau Lafayette by Stephanie Dray is a sweeping story about three women who guarded the Chavaniac castle where Gilbert du Motier, better known as the Marquis de Lafayette, was born on September 6, 1757. While the stories about each woman could have easily been the subject of its own novel, Dray expertly weaves them together to show the reader how the “spirit of Lafayette” inspired each of them.
Adrienne de Noailles was only 14 years old when she wed the 17-year-old Lafayette in 1774. While it was an arranged marriage, Adrienne was deeply devoted to Lafayette. She supported his fighting in both America and the French Revolution. She was known as a kind, gentle woman with the courage of a lion.
Beatrice Chanler, a former comedic stage actress who married the wealthy adventurer William Astor Chanler, was a real-life war relief worker. Along with Mr. J.C. Moffat, she formed the French Heroes Lafayette Memorial Fund to purchase Chateau Lafayette. The Lafayette Preventorium hired physicians, nurses, and teachers to care for and educate underprivileged and sick children. Author Dray was able to learn a great deal about this beautiful and fascinating woman when one of Beatrice’s grandsons shared family letters with her. Chanler was the only person to make seven war-time sea crossings to aid in relief efforts. She earned numerous awards for her philanthropic work including being decorated as a Chevalier of the Legion of Honor.
The third woman of Chateau Lafayette and the only fictional character is Marthe Simone, an orphan who was brought to the Preventorium by Beatrice as a child. While she longs to be an artist, Marthe is a teacher at the castle during World War II. Marthe is a tough character who reluctantly becomes part of the French resistance. She is constantly inspired by the strength of the women who have gone before her.
5-Stars. Book club recommended. While I have never been one to really enjoy LONG books, I loved this one. I listened to the Audible which is 23 hours and 55 minutes. The hardcover is 576 pages. It was published on March 30, 2021.