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Hardcover Details
  • 10/2021
  • 9781735999609
  • 156 pages
  • $25.00
Love's Legacy: Viscount Chateaubriand and the Irish Girl
Love’s Legacy chronicles the author’s search for hidden meaning in two letters he inherited from his father, addressed to his great-great-grandfather in summer 1817 by the adventurous diplomat and famous founder of modern French literature, François-René de Chateaubriand. The book is a suspenseful detective story, an intimate biography of Chateaubriand, a story of forbidden love fraught with passion and tragedy, a genealogical quest, and a memoir recounting the author’s ancestry leading from his audacious father to fathers before him, each carrying a legacy rooted in the same star-crossed encounter of long ago. Captivating and deeply humane, Love’s Legacy portrays the surprising impact people’s lives can have on those born centuries later. As clever as it is wise, this book reveals how recovery of the past awakens an awareness of inherited gifts that transcend genealogy.
Reviews
Historic nonfiction with a romantic twist, Fallon’s (The German University) graceful account of his foray into family history asks, “Were my father and I, as well as our forebears, biological descendants of the charismatic Frenchman?” The Frenchman in question is none other than the storied writer, lover, politician, and historian François-René Chateaubriand, who died in 1848. In answer, Fallon beautifully recounts his meticulous, decades-long research into a family story about the relationship between Chateaubriand and Mary Neale—affectionately dubbed “the Irish girl.” The quest begins in his late father’s study, where four letters his father left Fallon nearly crumble in his hands and lead him on a bewitching journey of love, pain, and discovery.

Fallon aptly recruits myriad external resources (genealogists, biographers, police departments, trips abroad) to investigate Chateaubriand, Mary, and then Thomas Fallon (Mary’s son). Each is placed in thorough historical context (French Revolution, New World, 19th century sexual norms) so seamlessly that this book’s human interest is impossible to divorce from either its literary analysis (Fallon includes excerpts of Chateaubriand’s posthumous autobiography, whose title translates to Memoirs from Beyond the Grave) or the “known fact”s of the history. The prose, while lightly erudite, is unfailingly clear and engaging.

Fallon builds toward a compelling hypothesis, sometimes with excitement and at other times cautiously: “Of course, other imagined explanations, ordinary and bland, might be applied to the same known facts.” As tends to be the case with family legends, though, the author here finds the research eventually contesting those “known facts.” Still, the remarkable relationship between these figures and his family nevertheless remains enticing, and Fallon’s not insignificant discoveries—as well as his found historic documents—are presented with academic rigor and a storyteller’s élan. Whether fascinated by genealogical research or simply interested in the story of an empathic young girl and the man who loves her, inquisitive readers will enjoy this quick, compelling account of a rich slice of French history.

Takeaway: A lively dive into French history, family legend, and a storied lover and writer’s possible secret.

Great for fans of: François-René de Chateaubriand’s Memoirs From beyond the Grave, Malcolm Scott’s Chateaubriand: The Paradox of Change.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: A+
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A

Formats
Hardcover Details
  • 10/2021
  • 9781735999609
  • 156 pages
  • $25.00

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