Finding Fontainbleau, by Thad Carhart
- Hardcover: 304 pages
- Publisher: Viking (May 17, 2016)
FINDING FONTAINEBLEAU 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 12thcentury 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.
This book was the perfect mixture of memoir and history text, and it took me little time at all to read it through. When I got to the end, I wished it was longer, so that I could spend more time there, and learn more of the history. But most of all, I was delighted to learn about the everyday French life of the time. Most amusing were the surprising contortions of the parents of his schoolmates when students were expected to have a glass of milk daily, and for reasons political, all his French schoolmates produced doctor’s letters stating that they were not to have any milk. But Thad, being unknowing, drinks his milk without complaint. At least, until he realizes what’s happened, and his parents somehow have to get him a letter also. That was one of the quirkiest bits in the book, I found. Other little details surprised me, such as the taking of inventory, and that a house that had fixtures (stove, toilets, some furniture, etc.) was considered fully furnished, and that there were houses with nearly nothing that would be considered unfurnished. Far different from my rental experiences here in Canada, where an unfurnished apartment is still expected to come provided with a stove, fridge, a proper bathroom, and quite possibly window coverings.
And the history… oh the history. I really wanted to be there in Fontainbleau, seeing the old theatre as it was, wandering in under the eaves, seeing the workshops for the workers, and watching the restoration. I have been to Versailles, and found it immense (and tourist-filled, uncomfortably so), but Fontainbleau sounds much more intimate by comparison. I have not yet been there, but I know that it will be on my list of places to visit when I next travel to Europe. I will not miss it. And I thank Mr Carhart for introducing me to its fascinating history.
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
Thad Carhart’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS:
- 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
on Tour July 18-27
Release date: June 30, 2016
When divorced mom Sadie Ford realizes her 17-year-old daughter Scarlett has run away to Paris all she can imagine are terrorist bombings and sex slaves. After learning her daughter chased a French exchange student home, Sadie hops on the next plane in pursuit. She joins forces with the boy’s father, Auguste, and the two attempt to find the missing teens before they can stumble into more trouble. The chase takes Sadie and Auguste to the seedier side of Marseille, where their own connection is ignited. Since the divorce, Sadie has devoted herself to raising kids and putting her dreams on hold, but when her daughter needs her most, Sadie finds that concrete barrier to life beginning to crack. In her journey, she learns the difference between watching the hours pass and living.
This book was a refreshing read, especially because the heroine was not an early-20s woman, but one of middle age, with teenage kids and a ‘normal’ life. That is, hectic and messy and full of the little details that a lot of books gloss over. I connected with her immediately, and could feel her frustration and anger and worry all at once.
And when the action moved to Paris, I was delighted to be ‘visiting’ one of my favourite cities once more. I could absolutely envision the car chase through the huge traffic circle at the Arc de Triomphe, and wandering down avenues, and experiencing Paris for the first time.
Now that I’ve read The Paris Runaway, I think I’m going to need to go read all of Ms Kincer’s other books!
I’d been distracted by my class of first graders, my fingertips dripping with paint, as one boy pulled on the hem of my dress and a strange man in shiny shoes walked into the classroom. He said, “I’m lookin’ for Sadie Harrison Ford.”
“That’s me,” I said, my brows scrunching together at the bridge of my nose. No one called me by my maiden name and married name. I was fine as Sadie Harrison or Sadie Ford, but combine the two names, and I became a Star Wars joke waiting to happen.
“Got some papers for you,” the man said as he moved a piece of chewing gum to the side of his mouth.
“Well, I obviously have my hands full right now,” I told the man, irritated that the office had let him come down to my classroom. “Just put them on my desk.” I jerked my head toward the oversized wooden desk that had piles of papers on one side, a stack of wavy artwork on the other side, but a nice empty section in the middle where an envelope would not go astray.
“I’m afraid I can’t do that Mrs. Harrison Ford,” he said as he approached me holding out the envelope.
“Just a minute, Josiah,” I told the boy pulling on the hem of my dress.
“Miranda,” I called to a little girl nearby, “take that envelope and put it on my desk please.”
She obediently stood and approached the man with her hand out.
“I’m afraid no one but you can take this envelope.” The man stretched the envelope higher as if Miranda would try to jump up and snatch it.
“Oh, fine.” I reached out to grab the envelope with blue, red and purple fingers then moved to toss it onto my desk.
“Consider yourself served,” the man said.
I looked around for a camera as if I starred in a reality television show. “What do you mean?”
“Those are divorce papers from your husband.” The man threw the words over his shoulder as he walked toward the door.
And that’s how my official divorce papers got rainbow-colored fingerprints all over them as I tugged the stiff white papers from the envelope, and my face collapsed in a sudden rush of shame and tears. This couldn’t be happening to me.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
has an M.A. in journalism from American University.
She has traveled to France 11 times,
and still finds more to lure her back.
She currently teaches college English
and lives in Columbus, Ohio,
with her three children, two cats and one husband.
Visit her website www.paulitakincer.com and her blog at http://www.paulita-ponderings.blogspot.com
or follow her on Twitter @paulitakincer
Like her Facebook page at Paulita Kincer Writer.
Buy the book (print, ebook audiobook): Amazon
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