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A beguiling memoir of a childhood in 1950s Fontainebleau from the much-admired "New York Times" bestselling author of "The Piano Shop on the Left Bank"
For a young American boy in the 1950s, Fontainebleau was a sight both strange and majestic, home to a continual series of adventures: a different language to learn, weekend visits to nearby Paris, family road trips to Spain and Italy. Then there was the chateau itself: a sprawling palace once the residence of kings, its grounds the perfect place to play hide-and-seek. The curiosities of the small town and the time with his family as expats left such an impression on him that thirty years later Carhart returned to France with his wife to raise their two children. Touring Fontainebleau again as an adult, he began to appreciate its influence on French style, taste, art, and architecture. Each trip to Fontainebleau introduces him to entirely new aspects of the chateau's history, enriching his memories and leading him to Patrick Ponsot, the head of the chateau s restoration, who becomes Carhart s guide to the hidden Fontainebleau.
What emerges is an intimate chronicle of a time and place few have experienced. In warm, precise prose, Carhart reconstructs the wonders of his childhood as an American in postwar France, attending French schools with his brothers and sisters. His firsthand account brings to life nothing less than France in the 1950s, from the parks and museums of Paris to the rigors of French schooling to the vast chateau of Fontainebleau and its village, built, piece by piece, over many centuries. "Finding Fontainebleau" is for those captivated by the French way of life, for armchair travelers, and for anyone who has ever fallen in love with a place they want to visit over and over again."
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2016-03-14
- Reviewer: Staff
American casualness and exuberance meet French formality and grandeur in this lively, perceptive memoir, a prequel to the author’s The Piano Shop on the Left Bank. In the 1950s, Carhart’s family spent three years in the French town of Fontainebleau, where his father, a U. S. Air Force colonel, was stationed. His reminiscences recreate the culture clash between the family from expansive, affluent American suburbia and dense, culturally rich, but economically pinched post-war France, with its precise manners, rigid schooling (the rambunctious young author got terrible deportment marks), cozy shops, tiny cars (the family Chevy station wagon swam like a whale among minnows), holy relics, heavenly food, squalid bathrooms, and riotous puppet shows. (Road trips to Italy and Spain add catacombs and bullfights to the list of novelties.) Carhart returns in adulthood to view the restoration of Château Fontainebleau, the 800-year-old residence of kings and emperors. His memoir intermingles stories of French royalty, reportage on the conservators’s painstaking reconstruction of original decor, and effusive architectural appreciations. Carhart’s meandering, warmly evocative anecdotes register both the quirkiness of France’s traditions and the civilizing, humanizing influence they exert. Agent: Eric Simonoff, WME. (May 17)