In the mood for a modern gothic story with a touch of romance this weekend? Le Chateau is an absorbing, romantic and slightly creepy tale set in the wine regions of southern France, but with an Australian twist.
Imagine waking up from a coma to find you don’t know anyone; you live in a grand chateau in France, your husband is a wealthy, beautiful Frenchman, your toddler daughter is charming, and you have the mother-in-law from hell. And yet you have no idea how you got there…
In the compelling Le Chateau, that’s what happens to Australian woman Charlotte. She had an accident – a fall at the chateau where apparently she lives – a mysterious fall that’s resulted in amnesia. She doesn’t know who she is and she feels no connection with her immediate family. She recovers some earlier memories and to the consternation of her husband, she recognises only her best friend, Susannah, who flies out from London to help her piece her life together.
Even as she tries to recover, Charlotte remains confused and bound to the chateau. She struggles to understand why she feels nothing for this handsome man Henri who is apparently her husband and this adorable little girl Ava, who is desperate for her mother’s love, but who Charlotte doesn’t know at all. Then there’s her impeccably groomed, but cold and formal mother-in-law who is called Antoinette but is known by everyone at the Chateau simply as ‘Madame.’
As Charlotte attempts to re-build her life and recover her memories, she is faced with puzzling – and sometime disturbing – occurrences. Her mother-in-law seems to be undermining her relationship with Henri, insinuating Charlotte had something going on with the neighbouring landowner, Irishman Ryan. And what is the mysterious cow’s head in the compost near the vineyard? Is Madame dabbing in the occult? How did Charlotte fall and why can she remember nothing? Can she rekindle her relationship and rebuild her life?
Le Chateau marks an interesting new voice in Australian fiction, with its hints of domestic noir and gothic horror. Madame is reminiscent of that enduring villain of the gothic horror novel Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier’s Mrs Danvers, with her unrelenting undermining of the heroine. Le Chateau has all the right ingredients to keep you turning the pages and immersed in a weekend of reading.
Sarah Ridout has a Masters in Creative Writing from University College Dublin. She has lived in four countries with her husband and two children. Her eight years surrounded by the vineyards and chateaux of southern France sowed the seed for Le Chateau, drawing as it does from her experiences as an expatriate, her knowledge of France, its people and customs.