I really really liked Chevalier's two other book that I've read, The Girl With the Pearl Earring and Fallen Angels, especially Girl..., although it is a bit too girly for me sometimes. But this one, I found a big fat meh. After I read the book, I found out that this was actually her first book, and I though it made a lot of sense. It had the same pseudo-historical bit as Girl.., and the same sense of alienation of the lead characters, just not as accomplished, with annoying characters and some unbelievable and lazy shit.
The book is divided into alternate chapters, one told in the first person by an American who recently moved to a small French village, and the other, told in the third person about a young woman in 16th century France, living through the rise of the Huguenots and the subsequent persecution thereof. Their story is connected in that the American, Ella Turner, is the descendant of the young Huguenot, Isabelle Turnier.
Isabelle is called La Resseau, after the Virgin Mary that the once Catholics in their village adored, because of her red hair, which the Virgin is said to have. Once the Truth, or Calvinism enters that village, they destroy the Virgin and all remnants of Catholicism and the persecution of Isabelle starts. the book tells the story of her unhappy marriage to Etienne Turnier, and their escape to Switzerland during the Huguenot persecution.
Ella's story on the other hand, tells of her isolation in France, and her quest to know her family's history, as well as her falling out with her American husband and burgeoning love affair with a French librarian.
There is, of course, a surprise discovery, and a dark family secret uncovered at the end. I guess the themes are alienation and how to overcome it. Meh. There are some pseudo-supernatural elements that I found misplaced and off-putting.
In short, no, I really wasn't that impressed with the book. It was a fast read, but I was bored. I found myself really disliking the character of Ella. In our local parlance, she is very OA (overacting). I know that that term is in English but it has a different connotation when used here where I'm at.