The Rocheforts, Information~
by Christian Laborie
(fiction / saga)
Release date: May 5, 2015
Two very different families are bonded by scandal in this sweeping story of love, greed, and betrayal.
Anselme Rochefort has built an empire manufacturing serge de Nîmes, or denim. His biggest client? Levi Strauss. As the craze for blue jeans begins to sweep the globe, Rochefort Industries seems poised for untold success. But Anselme can be as cruel and ruthless with his family as he is in business.
The Rocheforts’ neighbor Donatien Rouvière has one of the region’s most prosperous farms and is desperate for a son to carry on his legacy. After the births of three daughters, the Rouvières adopt an orphan from the Sisters of Charity convent and raise him as their own.
When Anselme suggests uniting the two families by arranging for their children to marry, it seems like the perfect match. But as the lives of the two clans grow increasingly intertwined, dark secrets come to light, including the mysterious circumstances of the death of Anselme’s eldest daughter.
With The Rocheforts, Christian Laborie weaves a captivating tale of deceit, intrigue, and the dynamic tension between industrialization and a way of life rooted in the land.
I really love a good family saga, or this case, an epic saga at almost 500 pages. Don’t let the length deter you though, as you might not even feel like it’s such a length once you start flipping the screen pages. It’s a translated novel, from French to English, and the author’s first English novel. But he’s an author of many other novels in France. Possibly with a writing-style much like most foreign authors, in which they tend to tell their story and be less visual, or maybe due to it being translated, it could be a bit more stiff rather than showy; however, I feel that it still is very readable as the character drama propels the reader.
I used to love to watch the old family style sweeping historical mini-series showings on Masterpiece Theater, or other like channels, when I was a child. I still love them. But I do like books even better. Something about them really captivates me, as I enjoy reading of these rich and prosperous or such families in history. When I read the synopsis for this one, in which the family of Rocheforts, who live in de Nimes (and make denim, isn’t that cool where the word comes from?), and of the Rouvière,who are their farming neighbors, I was entranced already. I continued to be delighted upon reading. The novel takes us from 1898 and 30 years past, into the effects of World War I and the financial crash. We see the marriage of children in the family, adoptions, deaths, and the many facets of the political and social upheavals this time period brings.
It also has some suspense at the beginning, which created a few mysteries, but one that wasn’t too difficult to figure out or was the main basis of the book. It was character and drama driven with good research into the history of the time period. It told of romance, economic class struggles, family issues, murder and mystery, politics, and industry. I thought it was interesting how all five Rochefort children had such different personalities and were all well-developed–some liked, some not. The character of the Rochefort patriarch was strong, as he was owner of the legacy and fortune (passed to him from his father), and also with one of his sons to whom he passed down his cold demeanor, and we see his terrible personality unfold as he strives to put back together a family fortune and reputation he’s all but lost.
I did especially enjoy the sections on the textiles and denim, though, which was their business. The juxtaposition of the Rochefort’s industrial life was contrasted well against the life of the other family, who made their money off the land. We could easily see how personalities are made or changed with wealth sometimes and we see how intertwining such families really could cause future issues. Yet, we also see shining light of how it could work as well.
There truly was so much happening in this novel, with twists and turns in regard to family and life struggles, so that the book was easy to remain attached to and that helped propel me through the novel. I love reading family histories, especially during this time period of major industrial and financial change.
I’m not sure when this was originally published, but it reads like those wonderful family sagas from decades ago. I miss those, with the writing today that is so action focused. There is something to be said about this type of book. It had a vintage historical feel that I really liked and I enjoyed being able to slow down and read this book over time, without losing any momentum on it.
I would highly recommend this book if you like dramatic familial novels, showing decades of ancestors with all their secrets, lies, and anguish. Personally, I love books about turn-of-the-century industrialists and how they lived, so I really liked this one. I can fully see why this novel was a best-seller when it first published in France.
Christian Laborie was born in the North of France, but has lived in the southern region of Cévennes for more than twenty years. The Rocheforts is his first novel to be published in English.
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