Love's Legacy

Viscount Chateaubriand and the Irish Girl

Non-Fiction - Historical
155 Pages
Reviewed on 10/10/2021
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Author Biography

Daniel Fallon is professor emeritus of psychology and public policy at the University of Maryland at College Park, where he also served as academic vice president and provost. He concluded his professional career directing grantmaking in education as chair of the Education Division at Carnegie Corporation of New York. Fallon has published widely on psychology, educational reform, and contemporary cultural issues. He is the author of The German University: A Heroic Ideal in Conflict with the Modern World, which was awarded the Eugene M. Kayden prize for excellence in humanities. Love’s Legacy: Viscount Chateaubriand and the Irish Girl, his latest book, includes an intimate biography of Chateaubriand, as well as a story of forbidden love, fraught with passion and tragedy. It is also a memoir, a detective story, a genealogical study, and a reflective meditation on the meaning of inheritance.

    Book Review

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.

Irene Valentine

Love’s Legacy: Viscount Chateaubriand and the Irish Girl is a work of historical non-fiction by Daniel Fallon. “With heightened awareness, I realized that he was no longer a resource to answer any lingering questions I might have…” On the day of the burial of his beloved 80-year-old father, Daniel’s visit to Carlos Fallon’s study launched his own mission of discovery. An intriguing legacy re-told, possibly re-shaped, and shared in fabulous tales, the story begins in London sometime in the 1790s with 12-year-old Mary O’Neill. A gifted storyteller himself, Carlos Fallon had endowed his carefully preserved letters and files with great value. Forty years prior, Carlos had published an engaging autobiography that had enjoyed two printings. Now, these precious old documents have passed to his son, and Daniel traces his lineage back two hundred years to uncover the details of his connection to the famous French author and diplomat Francois-Rene’ de Chateaubriand. The author's commitment to educating Thomas Fallon has been a powerful force, impacting the life choices of generations.

The aptly titled Love’s Legacy drew me in from the first page. Daniel Fallon deftly explores the generations of his heritage, navigating history with tender objectivity. This engaging account highlights the value of education in developing a curious and creative mind. His ancestors adventurously embraced experiences of exile and exploration, which informed their philosophy on life and resulted in their living significant and enriched lives. I recommend Love's Legacy also for the sheer pleasure of its delicious wordsmithing. This story of five generations, delivered in a concise book with nothing extraneous, but with several historical documents and portraits, is a feat in itself. May this dedicated work of non-fiction prompt many to record and preserve their family history for their own Love's Legacy.