25 July 2017

Today's Read: Finding Fontainebleau by Thad Carhart

Review: Finding Fontainebleau by Thad CarhartImagine being a young child and being uprooted from your home in suburban America to the chateau originally built by Louis VII in the 1100s and occupied by French royalty all the way through to Napoleon III in the late 1800s. Author Thad Carhart had just that experience when his father was stationed in Fontainebleau, France, in the early 1950s:

All these years later I can recall with keen precision the moment when the bottom dropped out, because that is exactly what it felt like: one moment we were flying, shaking a bit from turbulence, the next we were falling, in a calm, eerie-quiet broken only by the sound of the four engines laboring uselessly. Then the air caught us again and it was bad: the plane pitched violently up and down, from side to side, every way imaginable. The passengers found their voice then, after the expectant dread of the free fall. This was active, maniacal horror, and people screamed. It was the first time I saw an adult—many of them, in fact—expressing fear without reserve. The woman across from us started to cry and yell, and there was nothing to be done but listen and watch with a kind of terrified fascination.
Finding Fontainebleau: An American Boy in France by Thad Carhart (Penguin, 2017, p. 1 [paperback])

Quick Facts
  • Setting: 1950s, France (Fontainebleau & Paris)
  • Circumstances:  A young boy finds a whole new world after his family moves from prosperous America to still war-weary Fontainebleau, where his father was to serve three years as an air force officer. Decades later, Carhart returned to see the restoration of the famous residence of kings that he explored in his childhood.
  • Genre: memoir, narrative history
  • Themes: Old World versus New World, postwar Europe, culture clash (including language, education, economy, food, expected behavior of children), architecture
  • Reviews: Every review mentions how beautifully Carhart intertwines his own childhood memories with the history and architecture of the 900-year-old royal residence. Most reviewers comment on the author's sense of humor and his obvious love of his adopted country.
  • Why I want to read it: I like the setup of this book, which takes us back in time to the building of Fontainebleau and introduces us to the famous people who lived there. We see the residence through the eyes of a young, active boy and then again from the perspective of the grown man. I understand the descriptions of the food are not to be missed, and I'm curious about how the author and his siblings adjusted (or not) to their new home. I love beautiful old buildings, and I want to know more about the history of the chateau and its restoration.
  • Extra: The Boston Athenæum has posted a 25-minute video of the Thad Carhart talking about his memoir Finding Fontainebleau. Or watch the following short clip.


bermudaonion 7/25/17, 8:29 AM  

This sounds right up my alley.

Laurel-Rain Snow 7/25/17, 11:28 AM  

This one does grab me, and I love the excerpt! Thanks for sharing, and here's mine: “HEARTBREAK HOTEL”

Vicki 7/25/17, 1:40 PM  

I think I would enjoy this book.

Alice Audrey 7/25/17, 2:52 PM  

I actually would kind of like to experience something like that. Assuming I came out of it alive, of course.


Anonymous,  7/26/17, 10:25 AM  

Not to sure about this one. Here's my link for this week: http://wp.me/p4DMf0-1za

Daryl 8/2/17, 9:24 AM  

it certainly sounds intriguing but i think i will pass ... thanks!

Lisa 8/5/17, 10:01 AM  

This was a book I thought sounded interesting. Still I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it; it really had layers of interesting things.

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