Thursday, July 21, 2016
Finding Fontainebleau: An American Boy in France by Thad Carhart
Synopsis From Dust Jacket:
For a young American boy in the 1950s, Fontainebleau was a sight both strange and majestic. A provincial town just south of Paris, it is home to France's greatest chateau where Thad Carhart's father was assigned as a military officer. With humor and heart, Carhart conveys a rich panoply of French life in the '50s: the discovery of a Paris still covered in centuries of black soot; the strange bewilderment of a classroom where wine bottles dispensed ink for penmanship lessons; the excitement of camping in nearby Italy and Spain. What emerges is an insider's view of a postwar Europe rarely seen or largely forgotten.
Against this background of deep change for France stands the Chateau of Fontainebleau. Begun in 1137, fifty years before the Louvre and more than five hundred before Versailles, the Chateau was a royal residence for centuries. A string of illustrious queens and kings - Marie Antoinette, Francois I, the two Napoleons - added to its splendors without appreciably destroying the imprint of their predecessors. As a consequence, the Chateau is unique in France, a supreme repository of French style, taste, art, and architecture. Carhat tells us the rich and improbable stories of these monarchs and of their love affair with a place like no other.
Before I started blogging, I could have counted on one hand the amount of memoirs I had read in my life. Over the last seven years, I have had the opportunity to read/review quite a few memoirs, and I have absolutely fallen in love with a genre I never knew I would. Reading the lyrical beauty of Finding Fontainebleau has just added to that love affair.
Part memoir, part travelogue, and part history book, Finding Fontainebleau has given me a greater appreciation for France, and for the first time in my life, I want to book a ticket, and get my butt over there. Mr. Carhart, who is now one of my favorite contemporary writers, has a skill in storytelling that makes me green with envy. I could only hope to write half as well as he does, though I know that it will never come to be. He weaves his personal history with that of France and Fontainebleau, and instead of being a fragmented mess, he is able to tie the two stories together. The narrative undulates back and forth, but never feels out of control.
For the last few weeks, this was the book I would read once I was in bed. And like any good bedtime story, the melodious tenor of Mr. Carhart's written cadence sent me to dreamland night after night. What I'm reading rarely influences what I dream of, but I can still recall my leisurely stroll through the rooms of Fontainebleau. I can only hope that I will be able to visit those halls for myself, but if that never comes to pass, I will have Finding Fontainebleau waiting on my shelves.
I would like to thank Lisa of TLC Booktours for the opportunity to read and review this book. Please visit the tour page to read more reviews.