- Hardcover: 304 pages
- Publisher: Viking (May 17, 2016)
Viking is proud to announce a new memoir from Thad Carhart, author of the beloved bestseller The Piano Shop on the Left Bank, now in its 21st printing, which the San Francisco Chronicle raved would “lure the rustiest plunker back to the piano bench and the most jaded traveler back to Paris.”
FINDING FONTAINEBLEAU (On-sale: May 17, 2016; $27.00; ISBN: 978-0-525-42880-0) recounts the adventures of Carhart and his family—his NATO officer father, his mother, four siblings, and their dog—in the provincial town of Fontainebleau, France, in the 1950s. Dominating life in the town is the beautiful Château of Fontainebleau. Begun in 1137, fifty years before the Louvre and more than five hundred before Versailles, the Château was a home for Marie-Antoinette, François I, and the two Napoleons, among others, all of whom added to its splendors without appreciably destroying the work of their predecessors.
With characteristic warmth and humor, Carhart takes readers along as he and his family experience the pleasures and particularities of French life: learning the codes and rules of a French classroom where wine bottles dispense ink, camping in Italy and Spain, tasting fresh baguettes. Readers see post-war life in France as never before, from the parks and museums of Paris (much less crowded in the 1950s, when you could walk through completely empty galleries in the Louvre) to the quieter joys of a town like Fontainebleau, where everyday citizens have lived on the edges of history since the 12th century and continue to care for their lieux de mémoire—places of memory.
Intertwined with stories of France’s post-war recovery are profiles of the monarchs who resided at Fontainebleau throughout the centuries and left their architectural stamp on the palace and its sizeable grounds. Carhart finds himself drawn back as an adult, eager to rediscover the town of his childhood. FINDING FONTAINEBLEAU imagines a bright future for this important site of French cultural heritage, as Carhart introduces us to the remarkable group of architects, restorers, and curators who care for and refashion the Château’s hundreds of rooms for a new generation of visitors. Guided by Patrick Ponsot, head of the Château’s restoration programs, the author takes us behind the scenes and shows us a side of the Château that tourists never see.
Buy, read, and discuss this book:
Twenty-six years ago THAD CARHART moved to Paris with his wife and two infant children. He lives there now, with frequent visits to New York and Northern California. His first book, The Piano Shop on the Left Bank, appeared in 2000, published by Random House. Across the Endless River, a historical novel, came out in 2009 with Doubleday.
Connect with Thad
I’ve always loved memoirs and over the last several years, I’ve become addicted to memoirs of people living in France. (In truth, this addiction probably started decades ago when I read Peter Mayle’s first book). For some reason, I kept thinking Finding Fontainebleau was a novel, until I finally sat down to read it, and then I was delighted to find out this engaging, sometimes funny, often poignant book was actually a memoir.
I haven’t read any of Thad Carhart’s earlier work, but I found myself completely drawn in by his words, and the way he worked the profiles of historical figures into his personal narrative. I also appreciated the way he balanced historical travelogue with his own experiences in post-war France.
If this review feels short, it’s because memoir doesn’t involve plot or characters, and I always feel as though I’m judging someone’s life, rather than merely a specific piece of work. The book itself is satisfyingly long, and the perfect read for a stormy summer day, where you can let yourself be drawn into the vivid imagery created by Carhart’s words. (It’s also, minus the very first section, the perfect book for a plane trip.)
I felt like was in a bubble of past-France, as filtered through someone who is living in contemporary France, and I enjoyed the experience so much that when the bubble burst at the end of the book, I was a bit let down.
This is a fascinating, compelling memoir, and I enjoyed it immensely.
Goes well with Nutella and banana crepes, and a cappuccino.
One lucky reader (no geographic restrictions) will win a print copy of this book.
Three ways to enter (one entry per person for each choice, so if you do all three, you’re entered three times).
- Find my tweet about this book and retweet it (I’m @Melysse).
- Find my Facebook post about this book and like/share it (I’m MissMelysse).
- Leave a comment here on this post telling me what foreign country you’d love to spend six-twelve months exploring.
Contest is open until 11:59 PM CDT on Friday, July 22nd.
Wednesday, July 6th: I Wish I Lived in a Library
Friday, July 8th: View from the Birdhouse
Monday, July 11th: Books on the Table
Tuesday, July 12th: Patricia’s Wisdom
Wednesday, July 13th: Girls in White Dresses
Thursday, July 14th: Building Bookshelves
Friday, July 15th: Bibliotica
Monday, July 18th: Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews
Tuesday, July 19th: The French Village Diaries
Wednesday, July 20th: Quirky Bookworm
Thursday, July 21st: Wordsmithonia
Friday, July 22nd: BookNAround
Monday, July 25th: Back Porchervations
Tuesday, July 26th: An Accidental Blog
Wednesday, July 27th: Lit and Life
Thursday, July 28th: All Roads Lead to the Kitchen
Friday, July 29th: Musings of a Writer and Unabashed Francophile