Carhart's family moved to Fontainebleau, France in the 1950s when he was just starting school. He was the fourth of five children and he recounts his memories of the family's move and everyday life abroad. Even as a young child, he notices the differences between post-war France and the post-war US they've moved from. He details his daily life, his schooling, and what it was like to live in France as an American child. Woven in with these reminiscences, he recounts his visits to Fontainebleau as an adult where he is privileged to be taken inside the chateau beyond the areas open to tourists in order to see the restorations going on in this venerable once royal residence. He speaks with the chief of restorations and comes to appreciate the exactitude of the decisions made and the dilemmas presented by a chateau added to and changed by many different monarchs throughout the ages. As he describes the work on the chateau for the reader, he also has the opportunity to pass on fascinating pieces of French history and the royals, including several Louises and two Napoleons, who inhabited this wonderful, eccentric place.
The tone of the memoir is accessible and pleasing. Carhart pokes fun at the French and at his family in equal measure, with a fondness for both that definitely shines through. The three different pieces of the narrative weave together comfortably and without a hitch, each adding depth to the others. Carhart's memories are surprisingly full given his age when he lived in France but certainly some of the more unusual happenings were probably seared into his memory. This charming memoir is a warm and appealing read, especially for those who have a thing for France but it will be equally engaging for readers who enjoy reading a portrait of a different time and place. Wouldn't we all love to visit Carhart's Paris and his Fontainebleau?
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Thanks to Lisa from TLC Book Tours and the publisher for sending me a copy of this book to review.