Finding Fontainebleau: An American Boy In France by Thad CarhartFinding Fontainebleau: An American Boy In France by Thad Carhart

Finding Fontainebleau: An American Boy In France

byThad Carhart

Paperback | May 16, 2017

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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 château 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 château's history, enriching his memories and leading him to Patrick Ponsot, the head of the château’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 château 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.
The son of an air force officer, Thad Carhart grew up in a variety of places, including Washington, D.C.; Fontainebleau, France; Minneapolis; Amherst, Massachusetts; and Tokyo. After graduating from Yale, he worked for the State Department as an interpreter. His first book, The Piano Shop on the Left Bank, appeared in 2000, published b...
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Title:Finding Fontainebleau: An American Boy In FranceFormat:PaperbackDimensions:304 pages, 8 × 5.3 × 0.8 inPublished:May 16, 2017Publisher:Penguin Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0143109286

ISBN - 13:9780143109280

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Reviews

Bookclub Guide

1. A memoir lies at the heart of Finding Fontainebleau, a story of the author’s life in France in the ’50s. Carhart begins the narrative with his boyhood account of the long prop airplane trip to France, and then the impressions this new place made on him. Are there aspects reminiscent of other stories—fiction or nonfiction—where the reader discovers a new world at the same time as the author? Is the France of sixty years ago more “exotic” than the country we know today? Discuss why that might be the case. 012. The Château of Fontainebleau figures prominently as the focus of restoration efforts in the present day. Similar work goes on in almost all countries, but the French have their own approach. How does Carhart’s account set forth the French philosophy of restoration? Are there similarities to how Americans care for their own national treasures? 3. Carhart’s experiences and adventures in France as a boy are always seen against the background of a large family—five children—living immersed in things French. They had no TV, one portable record player, and only French radio. How would things be different in the present day for a big American family living abroad? 4. Finding Fontainebleau gives us accounts of many of the kings and queens who lived at Fontainebleau and built its many parts. What traditions did they share that made their projects at Fontainebleau distinctive? Now that the monarchy is a thing of the past, how does the French Republic square its democratic ideals with the safeguarding of France’s oldest royal residence? 5. Carhart tells us how the Château has been threatened with ruin several times over its long history, most recently during the German occupation of France during World War II. How would its loss diminish the cultural inheritance of France in particular, and of Western civilization in general? Why is its survival important?6. Discuss the ways in which Carhart’s account of his upbringing in Fontainebleau of the ’50s differed from the ways he and his wife raised their own children in Paris in the ’90s. What similarities—and differences—struck you? 01

Editorial Reviews

"While bringing alive this redolent Gallic chapter of his boyhood (baguettes from the boulangerie; inkwells and laborious handwriting exercises at school), Mr. Carhart also resurrects the mood and mores of a particular window in time: the 1950s of Ike and Elvis’s America, and postwar France. . . . Like the castle, his memoir imaginatively and smoothly integrates multiple influences, styles and whims."—The New York Times“A lovely snapshot of daily life in a bygone France, as well as a tribute to the artistic and architectural glories of this centuries-old royal palace, a predecessor to Versailles.”—Newsday"Perfect . . . [A] giant jigsaw puzzle of history, reminiscence and anthropological detail which paint a complicated but indelible picture.... Details, impressions, memories—and what the author does with them—are the heart and soul of this lovely book."—The Washington Times"A vivid picture of the rhythms and flavor of post-war France."—Northampton Daily Hampshire Gazette"Carhart turns his observant eye on small, sometimes odd-seeming details—the once-ubiquitous Turkish toilets in cafes, the uniquely French method of taking household inventory, French cars of the 1950s. These lovely digressions, along with Carhart’s own family’s story, illuminate French culture in an appealing way."—BookPage“American casualness and exuberance meet French formality and grandeur in this lively, perceptive memoir.”—Publishers Weekly“The author of The Piano Shop on the Left Bank (2001) returns with another celebration of France…Those lucky enough to have lived and attended school in Europe will love this book, and anyone heading to Paris will surely add Fontainebleau to his or her schedule.”—Kirkus Reviews“Part memoir, part history, part love letter to France—Thad Carhart’s adopted home—Finding Fontainebleau is a fun, intriguing meditation on time, place, and nationality. I don’t think I can pay it a greater compliment than to report that reading it sent me to Paris’s Gare de Lyon, there to board a train to Fontainebleau, which I saw with new eyes.”—Penelope Rowlands, author of Paris Was Ours   “Charming and vivid and sweet, Finding Fontainebleau is full of the hopeful ambiance of Americans discovering France in the post-war era.”—Alice Kaplan, author of French Lessons and Dreaming in French “Anyone who grew up in an American baby boom split level will love reading about how the undaunted Carhart family moved from utterly predictable suburban Virginia to the utterly unpredictable environs of Fontainebleau. I learned, I laughed, I marveled, I yearned to transport myself to Fontainebleau.”—David Laskin, author of The Family:  A Journey into the Heart of the 20th Century “Finding Fontainebleau is a family memoir, a chronicle of a remarkable palace, and a social history of the vanished world of post-war France. Most illuminating of all, perhaps, it is a guide to the customs and preoccupations of the French, past and present, whom Thad Carhart writes about with humor, insight, and obvious affection.”—Ross King, author of Brunelleschi’s Dome    “Beautifully written, Thad Carhart’s new book is a delight, happily meandering down memory lane through storybook ‘Phone-Ten-Blow.’ Simply marvelous!”—David Downie, author of Paris, Paris: Journey into the City of Light   “Just as Julia Child’s writing about cooking and eating brought to life France in the 1940s, Thad Carhart uses France’s architecture to describe his own childhood in the 1950s. The Palace of Fontainebleau provides a flamboyant backdrop to his stories of adjusting to French schools, the French language and, naturally, French food. Anyone who has ever felt like a fish out of water will be diverted and informed by Finding Fontainebleau.”—John Baxter, author of The Most Beautiful Walk in the World   “Thad Carhart’s new memoir has all the charm and the deftness with insider knowledge of his much-loved The Piano Shop On the Left Bank. It’s both hilarious and profound, as he gives us in turn his boy’s eye view of a new country and customs and his adult deep appreciation of France, French history and the particular place, Fontainebleau, of the title. A delight, at all its levels.  I’ve read it twice already… it’s a book to come back to again and again.”—Rosalind Brackenbury, author of Becoming George Sand   “A delicious journey into a France we never knew and wish we did. Long before mass tourism and globalization France was simple, soulful, and every inch stimulating. Carhart knew it all and shares this with us with the deftness and insight of a master storyteller.”—Leonard Pitt, author of Walks Through Lost Paris and Paris a Journey Through Time  From the Hardcover edition.