Written by Danielle Trussoni
Published by HarperCollins on September 20th 2016
Genres: Biography & Autobiography, Personal Memoirs
Source: publisher, via Shelf Awareness for Readers
The critically acclaimed, bestselling author of Falling Through the Earth and Angelology returns with this much-anticipated memoir of love and transformation in France. The Fortress is Peter Mayle meets Eat, Pray, Love, a gorgeously written account of one woman’s journey to the other side of the romantic fairytale.
"If I had been another woman, I might have been skeptical. But I wasn’t another woman. I was a woman ready to be swept away. I was a woman ready for her story to begin. As a writer, story was all that mattered. Rising action, dramatic complication, heroes and villains and dark plots. I believed I was the author of my life, that I controlled the narration."
From their first kiss, twenty-seven-year-old writer Danielle Trussoni is spellbound by a novelist from Bulgaria. The two share a love of jazz and books and travel, passions that intensify their whirlwind romance.
Eight years later, hopeful to renew their marriage, Danielle and her husband move to the south of France, to a picturesque medieval village in the Languedoc. It is here, in a haunted stone fortress built by the Knights Templar, that she comes to understand the dark, subterranean forces that have been following her all along.
While Danielle and her husband eventually part, Danielle's time in the fortress brings precious wisdom about life and love that she could not have learned otherwise. Ultimately, she finds the strength to overcome her illusions, and start again.
An incisive look at romantic love, The Fortress is one woman’s fight to understand the complexities of her own heart, told by one of the best writers of her generation.
THE FORTRESS: A LOVE STORY by Danielle Trussoni: A Book Review
A version of this review was previously published in Shelf Awareness for Readers (September 27, 2016). Shelf Awareness compensated me for this review. Please refer to the FTC disclosure above for more information.
Danielle Trussoni’s 2007 memoir Falling Through the Earth reflected on her relationship with her father and how she was affected by her parents’ divorce. Nine years later, in The Fortress, Trussoni recounts her efforts to spare her children from similar pain while waging an ultimately unsuccessful battle to save her own marriage.
Trussoni met the young Bulgarian novelist Nikolai when they were both graduate students in Iowa. Both were recently divorced, and their new romance was fast and intense. When Nikolai needed to return to Bulgaria to renew his expired visa, Danielle and her toddler son Alex eagerly accompanied him. Once they arrived, she learned that the required “home stay” was two years rather than the few months Nikolai had implied. Soon after, she discovered she was pregnant. They married and eventually returned to America with Danielle’s son and their new daughter, but things were difficult. Nikolai was difficult–troubled and unpredictable.
After several tumultuous years, Danielle was desperate for things to change. In a dramatic move to save the marriage, she and Nikolai moved the family to a medieval fortress in a French village. The romantic setting would become a battleground where Danielle tried to protect her children and save herself from Nikolai’s manipulations and increasing instability.
The memoir is a flashback, and we know from the outset that this mission to France will fail. It’s also one person’s side of a story–a story where the unhealthy patterns of any relationship are easier to recognize with time and distance. Trussoni is frank about the red flags and warning signs in her relationship with Nikolai and compellingly conveys the stark, painful emotions of its unraveling. The Fortress is an intimate and intense portrayal of a troubled marriage as seen by the woman who emerged from it, scarred but stronger.
Yet I move a little closer and then a little closer, until I am right there, in his arms. I can no longer tell the difference between walking to the edge of a cliff and jumping off. I just close my eyes and go for it.
When I open them, my husband is staring at us from the bar, his arms crossed over his chest, drill-sergeant style. A shiver of apprehension runs through me. He doesn’t like this dancing-with-a-Frenchman thing one bit.
“What’s the matter?” the monsieur asks, moving close to my ear.
“My husband,” I reply.
He glances over toward the bar. “Do you need to go?”
“Probably,” I say. “But I’d rather stay.”
“Then you will just have to come back to Paris,” he whispers, pressing his lips to my ear. “Without your husband.”
Before I can respond, my husband is at my side. He grabs my arm and pulls me away from the Frenchman.
“What in the hell are you doing?”
“I don’t want to leave.”
And I know, as soon as I say these words, that I mean them in every sense: I don’t want to leave the club with my husband; I don’t want to go back home with my husband; I don’t want to spend the rest of my life struggling to believe a failed fairy tale. It is only now, at this moment, in this club, with this man, that I know there is no going back.