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Reviewed by Grant Leishman for Readers' Favorite
Love’s Legacy: Viscount Chateaubriand and the Irish Girl by Daniel Fallon is a journey back in time through one man’s family tree in an attempt to prove or disprove a long-standing story within the family. It was always rumored in the author’s family of a familial link to the famous 18th-century French poet, author, and statesman, Viscount Francois-René de Chateaubriand. Stories of the Viscount’s brief sojourn in England, when he was penniless and ill, and his subsequent meeting with the author’s ancestor, the then 14-year-old schoolgirl Mary O’Neill, are explored in this tale. Sources throughout history and within the author’s family have always hinted at a relationship between the Viscount and young Mary that may have resulted in the birth of a child, Thomas. The author, Daniel Fallon, was left some fragments of letters when his father died, written to Daniel’s great-great-grandfather, Thomas Fallon. This sets him off on a journey of discovery to unearth the truth of the mystery. Was he indeed descended from the great author himself, Viscount Francois-René de Chateaubriand, called by many the father of modern French romantic literature?
Love’s Legacy is indeed a true-life mystery tour as author Daniel Fallon seeks evidence of a familial link in the often incomplete records of both France and England. Frequently stymied by the lack of records destroyed by war, the author is dogged and determined to finally prove or disprove the old family tale of a link to the Viscount. Although non-fiction, the author’s ability to weave his narrative like a fictional adventure makes this historical journey incredibly readable and exciting. One could feel through the pages both the author’s elation at finding a scrap of evidence and his frustration at barriers and destroyed documentation that invariably stood in his path. I particularly enjoyed the sections where the author actually visited the sites where Viscount Chateaubriand and young Mary resided in London some two hundred-odd years ago, noting that in many cases these sights and landmarks written about by Chateaubriand still existed. There was very much an air of discovery and excitement in every page that kept me totally enthralled in a story that is, in its essence, a family genealogy. For anyone who thinks history is a dry recitation of facts or that a family narrative could not possibly be exciting or interesting, this book firmly belies those premises. I can highly recommend this read.