After his mother lost her battle with cancer, Scott, his younger sister, and his “hippy” father move from California to rural France. In the fall of 1970, in the small town of Château de Moines a new life starts for all of them, far away from the ghosts of their past. Scott quickly adapts to his new life, he becomes a regular customer of the towns café and even discovers some sides of the town that are even unknown to the locals. He attends football games played by the children of North African immigrants.
One of the people with whom Scott develops a deep friendship is Sylvie, a girl longing to own a pair of Levi’s jeans, who loves to listen to American music and has many dreams she does not dare to voice. Sylvie is at first annoyed by the presence of Scott, all she can think of, is his smile, his movie star smile. Thus, she tries to avoid even listening to her favourite music.
Chronicles from Château de Moines is a beautiful book by Evelyne Holingue, it is told through the eyes of the French girl Sylvie and through those of Scott, who dares to perturb her everyday life. Written in a diary style, this book is fun to read (even if you are not of the age group it is for…), and the reader feels as though they have known both of the narrators for a long time. The sharing of their most intimate thoughts, worries, and memories do help with this identification process.
But Chronicles from Château de Moines is not just the story of 12 year olds worries. It is a portrait of rural France in the 1970s. People are worried about what is hippy and groovy (American) and what is foreign and unknown (North African immigration). Life’s negative sides such as fear, mistrust, sadness, and warfare as well as more positive ones such as friendship, love, trust, and peace can be found within the pages of this book.
Many lessons are transmitted through this story. For example the book encourages the reader to pick up where they gave up, like Scott who quit plucking his guitar strings, as well as to be brave and have confidence in one’s talents, such as Sylvie, who is pushed by her friend to make her voice heard.
I can wholeheartedly recommend Evelyne Holingue’s book. I always feel that sometimes important lessons and messages are very well, maybe even best, if transmitted through the voice of a child character.
Book review by Solveig Werner of Chronicles from Château de Moines by Evelyne Holingue, Burel Press, 2014