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HFC EDITORIAL REVIEW - "Chateau Laux" by David Loux

Updated: Sep 5, 2021

Inspired by a shocking incident in eighteenth century America, Chateau Laux is the story of Lawrence Kraymer, a young entrepreneur from a youthful Philadelphia, who chances upon a French aristocrat and his family living on the edge of the frontier.


HFC EDITORIAL REVIEW


“That’s the way it is, you know – human nature – to keep our secrets until we are forced to expose them.” Born to an unwed mother and raised by a disapproving and judgmental grandfather, Lawrence is drawn to the close-knit family. As part of his courtship of one of the patriarch's daughters, he builds a château, igniting memories of a past that should have been left alone and setting in motion a course of devastating events he could not have anticipated.


So many good things have been said about this novel and even more needs to be said. This is a classic in the making, the birth of the Great American Novel, with writing comparable to literary greats such as Steinbeck’s “East of Eden” or Frazier’s “Cold Mountain”. Elegance to the highest degree – a full-on work of literature surrounded with the most exquisite historical backdrop, full of the rich details and care you expect of a masterpiece. David Loux deserves a standing ovation, and this is a book I will not forget for a very, very long time.


Set in the wilds of pre-revolutionary war Pennsylvania, you are given a vision of Old World meets New World through the eyes of Lawrence Kraymer, and his ambitious quest to bring to the landscape something from the past. Lawrence has made his fortune from a successful Philadelphia brewery he inherited from his grandfather, and after going on a hunting trip with his Indian companion, John, to escape some of his memories, he stumbles upon a quaint French family on his way home. Something about the farm draws him, perhaps the closeness, the loyalty, the love of this family, something he did not have in his past, and he stays on and helps out around the farm. This one decision change everyone’s life.


“For a moment, he felt a little adrift, wondering if anyone ever knew where they were headed. We just get shuffled one way or another, as the container of life that holds us shifts, until one day we find ourselves on a darkening porch on a farm in Penn’s colony, with cicadas buzzing in the trees and frogs chorusing in the meadow, and squabbling children in the yard.”


After some time passes, he falls in love with the oldest daughter, Catharine, and from there you are taken on a journey through these people’s lives that unfolds in the most dramatic and riveting story imaginable. Pierre Laux, the father, is a French aristocrat whose story unfurls and reveals secrets of fleeing to America to start a new life on his own, the persecution his family suffered in Southern France as a Protestant, and his desire to just live his life in this new country in peace. However, the appearance of Lawrence changes so much about the idyllic life Pierre wished for. After Catharine suffers a near tragedy, Lawrence’s ambitious mind pushes to the limit and he imagines building a vast château for her in the wilds of rural Pennsylvania. With each stone cut from the quarry, and each stone stacked, this story builds and builds with utter poetic perfection.


“That is when he knew he had a soul, when he thought of this woman he was finally ready to marry. That was when he thought that love was too big for a man to hold all by himself and that there must be a God to help with the carrying.”


You simply cannot put this book down until you reach the last word. This is a novel of love and hate, joy and heartbreak, of blood relations and those who become your family, of ancient roots and new seeds of hope, of timeless happiness and the sheering pain of grief. Lawrence never knew the security of having a family, as we are given a glimpse into his childhood, a life of beatings by his grandfather and a mother who was dead. After seeing the complete opposite in the Laux family – the obvious love and affection shared between each and every member, starting with the simple act of Pierre telling his youngest daughter a story while she sat upon his knee, moves Lawrence in a way he had never experienced.


And yet, while seeming idyllic, the introduction of Lawrence into the family seems to spark something in each of the children – dreams of their own which sometimes differ from what Pierre had in mind. Lawrence’s ambition bolsters their ambitions, and like a billowing cloud each of their stories build, and each mingle with the other in a seamless web of connectivity. The boys, Andrew, Jean, and Georgie, each find their own path – Andrew becomes Lawrence’s assistant on the build, and comes into his own as an incredible entrepreneurial businessman; Jean discovers a strength in himself, even overcoming great fear during an Indian raid, as well as survival skills and what it means to save a life on two profound occasions. The delving into Jean’s story in the book is another example of David Loux’s skill as a writer to weave this necessary tangent into the web. Georgie's innocence is a thread all the way to the end when you, as the reader, are introduced to how the harshness of this new country can suddenly transform a child into an adult, sometimes in the most brutal way.


“If the same star could be viewed by two different people, or by the same person in two different places, under entirely different circumstances, was it indeed the same star after all?”


After learning about the family’s aristocratic heritage, Lawrence sets to work on this grand château for his bride, thinking to re-establish something they lost in the Old Country. Yet, while the building helps Lawrence escape his past and build his future, for Pierre the house brings up painful memories of an unhappy childhood, of his dying mother who committed her very life to her religious beliefs, leaving him alone and suffering immeasurable grief at a very young age. Pierre’s own story is another avenue of perfection in prose; instead of feeling like a tangent or off-shoot from the main storyline, it feels like the mortar between the stones, as well as the sense that this new château's destiny is linked with what happened to Pierre’s home in the past. Yes, often times history repeats itself, but with every stone placed, hope rises. That being said, the underlying fear remains as you wonder if Lawrence will complete the château, if all will be well, if the future is bright for this young couple starting out their life in this new country. As in real life, the twists and turns wreak havoc on all of them.

You imagine this building, this château, as something sound and stable, built with the finest quarried stone – what can topple this sort of structure? As sure as Pierre is of his sound and stable family, the building of his life – what can topple it?


David Loux is a master at delivering the fragility of life within a single eloquent book. It has been a long time since a book has made me gush tears. This one did. Mr Loux understands grief in a way that connected with me profoundly – the stages you go through, the denial, the depression, the crushing pain, how you come to realize the incredible support from true friends, AND how a new day brings new hope in the most unexpected ways. This book is, indeed, a masterpiece and deserves a place in history right next to all of the brilliant classic novels throughout time. Château Laux is a timeless, entrancing, compelling, and elegant work of art.


Château Laux receives five-stars and a “Highly Recommended” award from The Historical Fiction Company!!







David Loux is a short story writer, who has published under pseudonym and served as past board member of California Poets in the Schools. Chateau Laux is his debut novel. He lives in the Eastern Sierra with his wife, Lynn.

Chateau Laux is published by Wire Gate Press. To find information on the book, including full length reviews, please go to www.wiregatepress.com.


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1 Comment


Malve von Hassell
Malve von Hassell
Aug 14, 2021

Wonderful review!

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