I am not a fan of the twee school of travel narrative. I don't want to hear about handsome Pierre at the Cafe. I run from empty castles and chateaux--give me a museum with good lighting or a cottage garden. But this book changed my mind. Deftly moving back and forth between Carhart's boyhood in France and a return 30 years later, Carhart immerses us in the town, the 900 year history of the chateau, and the ongoing renovations. Go ahead and sign me up Viking River Cruises! A joyful reminder of the importance of historic preservation at a time when it is once again under attack.
— From Carla's Picks
A beguiling memoir of a childhood in 1950s France from the much-admired New York Times bestselling author of The Piano Shop on the Left Bank
"Like the castle, Carhart's] memoir imaginatively and smoothly integrates multiple influences, styles and whims."--The New York Times
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. From the Hardcover edition.