Welcome to my tour stop for Chronicles from Chateau Moines by Evelyne Holingue. This is a middle grade historical fiction. The tour runs March 2-13 with reviews, interviews, guest posts and excerpts. Check out the tour page for the full schedule.
About the Book:
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.
This novel is steeped in cultural references to the early 70's with it's Levi's and "hang ten" shirts, and the music of Janis Joplin, Joan Baez and the Beatles, (okay late 60's to early 70's) and of course, the Vietnam War. If you are a fan of this era and especially this music as the story has music central to it's theme, then you will really enjoy this novel. I'm not a fan of the era. Maybe because I grew up during that time period, but I was hardly aware of the Vietnam war or music even. I was too young. I don't know why, but the 70's are not my favorite time in music, history, culture etc.
But, despite the novel being set during this time period, the universal themes of loss, feeling alone in a crowd, prejudice and belonging are something I could relate to, no matter what. The story is told in alternating chapters between Sylvie, a French 12 yr old aspiring singer/songwriter native to Chateau Moines and Scott, a 12 yr old transplanted Californian who plays the guitar. Music is their universal language despite the fact that Sylvie has never told anyone, even her best friend Annie that she writes songs. It's natural that Scott and Sylvie become friends as they have music in common but because Annie has no idea of Sylvie's interest in music, Scott comes between them.
Scott is also fighting the loss of his French mother to cancer just months ago. It was her desire that they move to France after her death, but he just can't get the hang of things. While he appears to be some kind of exotic delicacy to the French girls there, he just feels like a fish out of water. He's thousands of miles from his beloved beach in Santa Monica and a million from his mother. He doesn't know if the locals are making fun of him. He can't seem to catch on to the customs and the hundreds of ways they greet each other and he doesn't understand what's going on with his dad and the librarian. So, he decides to organize a peace rally. And he asks his class to join. It isn't unanimous, in the class nor in the town. But it does bring about some interesting changes in everyone including Scott, Sylvie and Annie.
The book isn't fast paced so take your time reading it. I read it over the course of a week. It gave me a lot of time to reflect on the characters and their motivations. It's been a very long time since I was 12, but I do remember when I was young everything was so, so important. And immediate. I reacted to everything so I think the author really got the characters right. However, I did not have teachers like Monsieur Leroy. Nor did I have a town that I could wander the streets freely. Chateau Moines sounds like a really idyllic place to grow up, even if it is fictional and has it's fair share of problems. The castle it is named after, well who wouldn't love a castle to explore and then the ancient forests right outside the city to get lost in or have a picnic in. And the descriptions of the bakeries and the Rue Principale with it's shops and the market. Makes me want to live in any city in France! And eat!
I recommend this novel to middle grade readers and up. It is realistic fiction and for those who have an interest in the 70's, the Vietnam War, a 12 yr old trying to assimilate himself in France and a family living with loss. And 12 yr olds on the brink of discovering the real world. Enjoy!
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.www.evelyneholingue.com
Two (2) kindle copies of Chronicles from Chateau Moines (INT)
Ends March 18th
This event was organized by CBB Book Promotions.