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4.4 out of 5 stars61
4.4 out of 5 stars
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on 17 April 2012
I like books which grip the reader from the first page. Susan Louineau has the priceless gift of being able to do just that. I particularly enjoyed the way she wove three different periods of history together to present a compelling and exciting plot. Well researched, thoughtfully and confidently written, obviously a labour of love. An absolute steal at £1.50.
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on 9 December 2012
I enjoyed this book. The three storylines kept things interesting and showed a willingness by the author to try and create something special. Covering three different time periods in the same book shows some skill, and I think for a first novel this was pretty ambitious.

The stories are woven together by their rural French location, and each is told in a pleasing style; clever but also subtle. I enjoyed Diana's story the most, with her emotional toing and froing over her family's new life in a French village. With her story being the most modern it is here where the reader gets to do the most guessing as to how all three stories are entwined in the end.

I am looking forward to this writer's next book, as The Chapel in the Woods shows an author with bags of potential.
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on 5 April 2012
Really enjoyed Chapel in the Woods and was sad to reach the end. Following three different stories in three different eras becomes easier the more you read especially as they all start to tie in as you near the end. I'd recommend it to everyone.
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on 8 January 2013
In some ways a great novel resembles a love affair. While it is going on you can think of nothing else and when it is over you feel bereft. The Chapel in the Woods is one such novel.

It begins with a car accident. Diane Lescure crashes her car on the very first day she arrives in the village of Saint Gabriel in rural France.
Diane's story is the main thread of the novel. She is English but married to a Frenchman, Serge, and with a young son, Ben. Her attempts to adapt to the extremely conservative life of rural France, and to be a perfect wife to her chauvinist husband seemed doomed to failure from the start. As she struggles to achieve the impossible, we are also given glimpses of other times.
The Canterbury monk, Edward, fleeing from retribution for his betrayal of the archbishop, arrived in the village in the late 12th century and was abandoned in the woods.
Hélène Godard, English but a fluent French speaker is parachuted into the village during the Second World War as an organiser for the Résistance.
These tales in the background threading in and out of the main narrative add depth and imagery to the story, each emphasising the narrow-minded attitudes of the villagers and the corruption of the local government. It seems that little has changed in the centuries between the events.
I loved each one.

It is rare to come across such accomplished writing. The skill with which Ms Louineau handles the three time frames is masterly. It appears effortless to the reader, as all great skill does.
I could not fault this novel. It is perfect in plot, pacing, characterisation and language. An absolute delight to read, and one of the very best books I have read in my life (and I have read thousands).
It is hard to believe that it is a first novel but I can find no record of her publishing any other work. I sincerely hope she intends to do so. I, for one, am hooked.
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on 14 May 2012
This is a wonderful story and one that can be read and re-read as there is something new to discover on each visit. Thoroughly recommended.
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on 12 March 2014
The Chapel in the Woods – Susan Louineau

English Diana and her French (fireman) husband, Serge together with their young son, Ben have bought their idyllic home in the country to get away from the rat-race of Paris. Their home: Champ de Foire in rue Mongommery.

This should be a new start for both of them, but their relationship starts disintegrating, leaving Diana to wonder about her future. While trying to sort out her life, she starts picking up hints of the past and it’s here that we start learning about Edward, a young monk who fled Canterbury and after being dumped in the forest, is rescued by Clothilde, a young peasant girl and also about Helene Godard (parachuted into the area to help the French Resistance during WW2).

Unfortunately, I found this book cumbersome. I would have loved to hear the story of the monk expanded. Also that of Helene. To me – Diana’s story was just about a one dimensional person, going through a marriage crisis, whereas the monk & resistance worker had beautiful characters and in their own right, could have each been two full stories. I felt that they came alive in the few chapters they were allowed to “tell their story”.

I always get upset when I see us, non-authors, give one or two stars to someone’s painstaking hours work to present us with a story, so I hope if the author reads this, they realise that I’m trying to be constructive.
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on 23 November 2012
Thoroughly enjoyed 'The Chapel in the Woods', a mystery set in rural modern-day France - a village and its inhabitants still affected by events in its medieval and wartime history. The interwoven timelines build layers of intrigue while the clearly defined characters are engaging, interesting and authentic. The descriptive passages create superbly vivid images for the reader, enveloping one with the atmosphere of each era while switching between each one smoothly.

Very much looking forward to it being published in paperback - she said hopefully! E-reading is all very wonderful for travelling - I read the book on a mixture of iPhone and iPad and much prefer the old fashioned kind of books! But it is testament to the cracking story that I persevered with my tiddly iPhone version :)
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on 31 March 2013
Three very different characters arrive in the same tiny French village during three different periods in time. The present-day story involves Diana, originally from England, who has moved from Paris with her French husband and young son in the hope of making a fresh start. World War Two is the backdrop for the story of Helene, an English Resistance worker, operating under the guise of village nurse. The third strand is set during the Middle Ages and focuses on a monk, Edward, who is hiding in the woods on the outskirts of the village after being forced to flee from England.

Each strand has a voice of its own with which to draw the reader in. There is a simplicity to Edward and his innocent relationship with the young girl who is protecting him. I find his story the most difficult to relate to, but he is a sympathetic and interesting character none the less. His knowledge of the healing power of natural flowers and herbs is integral to the plot and provides a rather satisfying link with Helene's role as a nurse. Helene is in as much danger as Edward; both must remain under cover. Her story is more active, full of the drama of espionage, but undercut with a poignant love story and the realistic hardships of Occupied France. Diana's story provides the main thread, and is more in the vein of a contemporary romance, with her struggle to keep her marriage together and her attempts to fit in with the local community. Hers is the situation that I think modern readers will relate to most easily. In addition, in her story the descriptions of the area are particularly beautiful, and the amazing food she produces is described in mouth-watering detail.

The supporting characters in each of the three strands are strong, often providing nuanced representations of the supportive villager and the prejudiced, narrow-minded one.

At first I found myself wondering how the author was going to successfully bring the three stories together. From the outset I enjoyed each individual story, but in the early chapters I was struggling to make the links beyond the very basic ones of place and theme. And this worried me a bit. However, once the author began to make the more interesting plot links between the stories, I relaxed. As these links became stronger, more complex and clever my enjoyment grew. I wish I'd had more faith from the outset in the author's ability to tell a well-crafted story. Her research must have been extensive.

I'm really pleased I read this story. There's so much that I want to talk about with other people who have read it, and I can't include some of my favourite bits of the book in this review because it would involve spoilers. I am therefore positive that this would be an ideal choice for a book club.
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on 21 March 2013
This is an intriguing read from the beginning. The first three chapters each introduce a different character as they arrive in a small village in the Loire Valley. All three are English, but that is where the similarity ends. One is a monk in the Middle Ages travelling under a shadow. One is an SOE (Special Operations Executive) dropped in by parachute during WWII to aid the local resistance and one is a young mother, married to a Frenchman and setting up a new life in the country. These three different stories made for quite a slow start to the book, but I was fascinated trying to work out how the book was going to come together and how the stories would be woven together. As each of the characters adjusts to their new lives their stories begin to unfurl and as the book progresses we see the links between the past and the present coming together. The more I read the more it gripped me and the more I had to read it.

There is a good mix of nice and nasty characters, a great respect for the changing of the seasons and some delicious food descriptions too. Even Johnny Hallyday makes a guest appearance. Susan must have spent time living in a rural French village especially with the way she wove realistic French village political problems into the story in all three of the time periods. Susan easily kept my attention from the beginning to the end of the book. The Chapel in the Woods is available in ebook format. The Amazon link is below. Many thanks to Jo Harrison from Writers Block Admin Services for sending me a copy to review.
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on 17 September 2013
This is a cleverly written book, intertwining three very different tales.

First, we meet Diana and her family as they make the move from Paris to the heart of rural France. This very contemporary tale could easily stand alone, but the weaving-in of the other two stories - that of a female British agent working in Diana's village in WW2 and that of a 12th-century monk who travels to the area - definitely adds extra layers of interest that really draw you in.

The book does get off to a bit of a slow start as the three stories all need building up, but the way they all come together at the end is very deftly handled and makes for a very satisfying read.

The main characters are all well-developed and the overlapping stories let the author touch on a whole range of themes, from love, friendship, betrayal, courage, belief, with a good dose of suspense and intrigue.

As I live in a small French village myself, I often found myself smiling at Diana's experiences with her new neighbours - there were definitely some familiar-sounding moments! And an extra source of personal enjoyment was learning that she'd studied at Jussieu and frequented the same pub as me when I was a student there!

A thoroughly enjoyable read and I look forward to reading more from Susan Louineau.
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