Chateau of Secrets by Melanie Dobson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I have changed the rating between 4 and 5 a number of times so I think it is a safe assumption that it is definitely more than a 4 star book but doesn't quite reach a 5 star for me. The push to a 5 star is simply that it didn't move me so completely on a literary level. It's strong, just not that the 5 star strong. But close.
The book is loosely based on a woman who lived near Normandy during the German occupation. She lived in a family chateau and some of the experiences described are true events. The chateau was built over hidden tunnels where she hid people and helped in the resistance effort.
This book alternates between Gisele, young woman in France during WWII, and Chloe, her granddaughter from Virginia. Gisele has painted beautiful pictures of her childhood home, although she has not returned since emigrating after the war with her husband and small son (Chloe's father). Chloe, engaged to a politician and, not surprisingly, the engagement is doomed from the first sentence. She is summoned to the chateau to give an interview to a documentary maker. Gisele is no longer of any help since she has mostly lost most of her memory, is often confused, and asks for a little girl named Adeline.
Upon arrival at the chateau, Chloe meets a girl named Abigail who leads her to her great grandmother who seems to have her own secrets. She meets the documentary producer named Riley and is surprised by his humility and change of heart from previous years. Additionally, she discovers that Riley is finishing his grandfather's story; finding more about a chateau where he was hidden when his plane was shot down. He is also researching Nazi soldiers who were part Jewish.
As Chloe's story plays out in modern day, Gisele is dealing with Nazi occupied France, working the best she can within the new rules, and seeing through Gisele's eyes how others sacrifice much, including their ideals and beliefs to a certain extent in order to save those they love and the innocent.
What makes this book stand out is that, although it is a Christian semi-fiction book, the author does not shy away from the difficult subjects that encompass war. Survival and protection often come at a price. A price that is not always in agreement with the 10 Commandments. There are no easy answers and none of the characters make their decisions without some mixed feelings. The story itself does not give answers of right or wrong, simply the directive to be careful about judgment. Without knowing the circumstances and the heart of each person, it is impossible to judge. Much easier to accept and to forgive.
The story is engaging and the pace is well timed. The book is very well written and I look forward to reading more by this author.