Genre: Middle Grade Historical Fiction
Ebook, 210 pages
Published October 11th, 2014
In exchange for an honest review,
an ebook was provided by the author for free.
September 1970: Scott’s mother has recently died and his father gets the crazy idea to move his family from California to Normandy. Now Scott has to learn to live without his mom while adjusting to France. In his seventh grade class there is only Ibrahim who comes from another country. Scott doesn’t even want to play his guitar anymore. Why does his father think that life will be better so far from home?
Scott has no idea that his arrival is also a challenge to Sylvie. While her best friend is excited to have an American boy at school, Sylvie cannot say one word to Scott. She can’t even write good songs in her notebook anymore. Why is life so different since
Scott moved to Château Moines?
Set against the backdrop of the Vietnam War protest era and told from the perspectives of twelve-year old Scott and Sylvie, this is a story about loss and friendship, music and peace, and also about secrets.
Although this is a work of fiction, the cultural, social, and historical background of the early 1970s in France and the United States inspired the writing. At the end of the book the reader will find a list of the songs, the names of singers, and bands mentioned through the novel as well as some elements about fashion, immigration in France, the Vietnam War, and other cultural, social, and historical facts relevant to the period of time.
Chronicles from Chateau Moines takes place during the 1970's in the fictional town of Chateau Moines, France. Scott, his sister and father have just moved from California looking to separate themselves from the memories of their mothers death. Scott's sister is adjusting well, already making friends with a local girl. Scott is trying to overcome some of the language barriers and makes friends with Ibrahim, an immigrant from Algeria.
Sylvie is a local French girl who lives with her mother, father, and younger sister and is passionate about writing songs in her notebook. She dreams of one day moving away to Paris to sing and write songs. When Scott meets Annie, the best friend of Sylvie, Sylvie's and Annie's friendship is tested. By accepting an invitation to meet up with Scott, Sylvie has skipped out on her best friend and sets off a series of misunderstandings and typical twelve year-old hurt feelings.
Chronicles from Chateau Moines is told in the alternating points of view of Scott and Sylvie, which I think works very well and keeps the story moving along at a nice pace. It's actually very engaging, because you get a look at the village from someone who has just moved there and is trying to learn the language, and then you have Sylvie, who has lived here her whole life. Scott brings the American influences of music, clothing and his views on the Vietnam War and Sylvie is the one who adds French words and phrases to the story, relates village life as well as the customs and foods of France. It was very interesting to see the town and each other through their eyes. Scott seemed more likable to me of the two. He takes the brunt of Sylvie's moodiness and I had a difficult time understanding why she seemed to show such disdain for him. Blaming him for her problems with Annie, while at the same time clearly liking him. Maybe it's just that I've forgotten what it's like to be twelve. Scott on the other hand, had a wonderful love for his mother that really showed in the ways that he tried to honor and remember her.
Before Scott's mother died, she took him to anti war demonstrations protesting the American involvement in the Vietnam War. It isn't central to the story that the reader understand the causes of the Vietnam War, just that Scott has very strong convictions about the war. Which is the reason he wears sandals instead of shoes, because he promised himself he wouldn't until the war was over. Scott holds on to his mothers memory very tightly and utilizes this protest as a means to honor her. This becomes the spark that unites Scott and Sylvie in organizing a Peace Rally in the town of Chateau Moines. Which goes to show the influence that one person can have. I loved the way the town came together around the Peace Rally it highlights both the good and bad sides to other characters from the village.
Chronicles from Chateau Moines draws its inspiration from the cultural, social and historical events from the early 1970's. You can really tell that Holingue did a lot of research, as she cites many bands, songs, singers, and fashion trends and includes references for each at the back of the book. Many cultural icons like Janis Joplin and historical events like the Washington D.C., Peace March and protests to the Vietnam War are also included. I love how it gives you the feel of the time period even if you weren't old enough to recall it and there is a nice balance of both French and American cultural.
Chronicles from Chateau Moines is a beautiful story about friendship, family and grieving the loss of a parent. The story will immerse you in the cultural, social and historical events of the 1970's while touching on the topics of the anti-war movement, and racism. Perfect for someone looking for a middle grade historical fiction set during this time period.
Favorite line: "The street, the sidewalks, and the roofs are coated with snow, and Chateau Moines looks like a fancy cake, iced with white frosting. I feel it impossible not to believe in the hope of peace when everything is white and silent."
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Two (2) kindle copies of Chronicles from Chateau Moines (INT)
About the Author:
My first published piece of writing was a poem about a man spending Christmas behind bars. I was eleven years old and wasn’t paid for my work, but I was hooked.
I studied French Literature at the Université de Caen and at the Sorbonne in Paris and worked in a publishing house before moving to California, following my husband.
It was a challenging time in my life as I was leaving my own career, my family, my friends and my beloved Paris behind. But how could I say no to the dreams of the man I love?
Readers enjoy escaping the familiar for the unknown. Being a foreigner is discovering the unknown day after day, not only for the time of a book. However, since most things in life come with a silver lining, I credit this move for giving me the opportunity to write. Through my words, I share my affection for my native and adoptive countries that I love equally.
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