A courageous young noblewoman risks her life to hide French resistance fighters; seventy years later, her granddaughter visits the family’s abandoned chateau and uncovers shocking secrets from the past.
Gisèle Duchant guards a secret that could cost her life. Tunnels snake through the hill under her family’s medieval chateau in Normandy. Now, with Hitler’s army bearing down, her brother and several friends are hiding in the tunnels, resisting the German occupation of France.
But when German soldiers take over the family’s château, Gisèle is forced to host them as well—while harboring the resistance fighters right below their feet. Taking in a Jewish friend’s baby, she convinces the Nazis that it is her child, ultimately risking everything for the future of the child. When the German officers begin to suspect her deception, an unlikely hero rescues both her and the child.
A present day story weaves through the past one as Chloe Sauver, Gisèle’s granddaughter, arrives in Normandy. After calling off her engagement with a political candidate, Chloe pays a visit to the chateau to escape publicity and work with a documentary filmmaker, Riley, who has uncovered a fascinating story about Jews serving in Hitler’s army. Riley wants to research Chloe’s family history and the lives that were saved in the tunnels under their house in Normandy. Chloe is floored—her family isn’t Jewish, for one thing, and she doesn’t know anything about tunnels or the history of the house. But as she begins to explore the dark and winding passageways beneath the chateau, nothing can prepare her for the shock of what she and Riley discover…
Take a trip to an historic chateau in northwest France in this new novel by Melanie Dobson. It’s been in Gisele and Chloe’s family for over 300 years, surviving Revolution, Restoration, Imperialism and war. The Great War was supposed to be ‘the war to end all wars,’ but then the Nazis arrived. What happened after the invasion is a secret kept by those who were there. But Chloe’s fiancé’s campaign manager can’t find her grandfather’s French war records, and a documentary filmmaker thinks her family has a connection to Jewish members of the German military.
Chateau of Secrets alternates chapters set during the war with those set in the present day. Questions raised in one chapter are generally answered in the next, but those answers only create new questions. Layers are gradually peeled back, and I was hooked into wanting to know more. What happened to Adeline? Who is Chloe’s biological grandfather? Why won’t Madame Calvez speak to Chloe? What does Gisele’s cousin, Philippe, want and why won’t Chloe’s father talk to Philippe’s son?
This is a powerful and well-written novel that I thoroughly enjoyed. The tension was there from the beginning, and I appreciated the way each chapter built upon the one before until past and present came together in an emotional climax. Chateau of Secrets is definitely among my favorite novels for 2014.
Thank you to Howard Books for my complimentary electronic advance copy of Chateau of Secrets, which I downloaded from NetGalley. No review was required.
Have you read Chateau of Secrets? Do you plan to read it? Let me know your thoughts.
Publisher: Howard Books (A division of Simon & Schuster)
Publication Date: 13 May 2014
Page Count: 400