For someone whose native language isn’t English, Evelyne Holingue writes with an enviable fluency. Chronicles from Chateau Moines is her second novel, aimed at the younger end of the young adult market. It’s a charming story about friendship, first love and the power of music. Set against the backdrop of the Vietnam War protest era, the book has a powerful message for the young readers of today. Not that it’s at all preachy! Rather, the characters take you with them on their journey of discovery.
The novel is set in the French town of Chateau Moines. Holingue herself was born and raised in France, giving the story a sharp air of authenticity. The novel is written in the first person, with two narrators who take it in turns to tell their story. The protagonists are Sylvie – a young French girl with a penchant for writing song lyrics, and Scott – an American boy new to town. Scott is a budding guitarist with a passion for protest marches.
There’s plenty happening to keep the story ticking over. Sylvie’s relationship with her best friend becomes strained, and there are some racial tensions between locals and the growing Arabic community. And what is the mystery behind the local store that lay shut for more than 20 years? The secrets of the past come back in a way that will delight readers.
The themes of the novel are friendship, peace, and acceptance. Universal notions – encapsulated in a time and place that will resonate with old and young alike.