As someone who loves France and all things French, I'm already sold on a book when it gives me a snapshot of French life.
And this book, Finding Fontainebleau by Thad Carhart, is unique because it is a memoir about a time when many Americans might not recognize France, that time in the early 50s, after World War II as France recovered from the war.
Carhart's family went to France, after his father was assigned to work as a military officer there. So the American family with five children rented a large manor house, and his father worked in an office in Chateau Fontainebleau.
Part of the book is the author's remembrances of growing up in France. Having worked on a memoir myself, I question how much a 4-year-old boy could actually remember, but I'm sure he spent time interviewing older family members, and some of the stories have probably become family lore.
I love the peek into French schools at the time, as he wrote about the students who poured black ink into each student's inkwell every day, and then the 5-year-old children had to meticulously copy out letters across the page. I can't even imagine.
Carhart also returned to France as an adult with his own children, so he jumps to different time periods. As an adult, he digs into the Chateau Fontainebleau, which played such a pivotal role in his childhood, and he is fortunate enough to be taken in by the architect in charge of renovating the chateau so he can gather backstage information about each section.
Those sections are then interwoven with French history about the construction and use of the chateau and the French culture at the time.
I enjoyed reading Finding Fontainebleau and felt like I gained many insights into French history, although the story didn't sweep me away or give me an urgency to finish. It was more like a leisurely boat ride as I enjoyed the sights.
Tuesday, July 26, 2016
Sunday, July 24, 2016
Thank you for joining this weekly meme. Grab a copy of the photo above and link back to An Accidental Blog. Share with the rest of us your passion for France. Did you read a good book set in France? See a movie? Take a photo in France? Have an adventure? Eat a fabulous meal or even just a pastry? Or if you're in France now, go ahead and lord it over the rest of us. We can take it.
rocky start, I fell in love with France.
Falling in Love With France
I visited France for the first time at age 20. My college boyfriend and I went on one of those 21-day tours where we visited 14 countries, or maybe it was a 14-day trip with 21 countries. Either way, one of those countries was France.
I’d gotten sick in Rome, with Montezuma’s Revenge, and it lasted into Paris. I remember visiting Notre Dame and desperately searching for a bathroom nearby. What I found was a Turkish toilet.
Those are hard to find in France these days, but a Turkish toilet was a stall with a place for your feet to go on either side of a drain in the floor. I still can’t work out the mechanics for a woman that doesn’t result in damp underwear. That experience could have ruined my love for France, but it didn’t.
A year after college graduation I was working at a newspaper and dating a photographer, whose sister was married to a Frenchman. The sister, who was pregnant, her husband, and their two little girls had tickets to go to France for the summer, when the sister was ordered to bedr est. Someone needed to step up and travel with the girls. I volunteered.
|Here are the two girls and their grandfather, along with a couple of cousins, on the balcony in Corsica.|
I told my boss I was going and that I didn’t care whether I’d have a job when I returned. Picture me as a bossy, impetuous 22 –year-old. (Luckily, they found a summer intern and my job waited for me.)
So with two little girls and a Frenchman I didn’t know, we flew to Paris. The first few days could have ruined my love affair with France as I took the girls on a bus to their great-grandmother’s apartment in the Latin Quarter of Paris. But the bus went the opposite direction that we needed and we ended up on an impromptu, hot, diesel-fueled tour of Paris, getting off at several stops in hopes of finding our way. Another day I got separated from the girls when they stepped through a Metro stall with sliding doors, and the doors closed before I could follow them. A flight attendant behind me had an extra ticket and used it to reunite me with the girls.
But every negative experience melted away as I traveled with the girls and their grandparents over the next three months. We flew to Corsica and spent our days splashing in the Mediterranean and enjoying each meal as a symphony of tastes and textures.
|Me, on the beach. There are probably naked, or at least topless, people right behind me.|
Our evenings filled with concerts and tennis matches and nights on the veranda watching the star-spangled sky for the slowly moving space station.
When we returned to mainland France, we stayed one night in Aix en Provence. I can still remember the thrill of coming home that rippled through me when I stepped onto Cours Mirabeau, the wide boulevard lined with plane trees.
For a month, we stayed in the family’s country home near Bourges. The house came into the family during Napoleon’s reign, and it had served as a base for the Germans when they invaded during World War II, then the Americans when they drove back the Germans. The numerous sets of French doors opened onto a yard, which led to fields of sheep and flocks of chickens. We walked to the village for bread each day, stopping to feed a pony.
|Here I am, prepared for dinner, as I sit on the terrace writing. I wish you could see my |
adorable ankle socks and aqua shoes that matched my top, but this print is not the best quality.
Finally, we returned to Paris and the grandparents’ apartment in the suburbs. The grandmother urged me to explore the city while she watched the girls, and, oh, what adventures I had as I wandered alone.
I’ve included memories from this trip in all of my novels set in France – The Summer of France, I See London I See France, and Paris Runaway.
In each of my French novels, I try to recapture the magical experiences of that first immersion into France – the trip that taught me the importance of savoring each bite of luscious nectarine, rather than worrying about the juice that ran down my arm.
Thanks so much for playing along with Dreaming of France today. Please leave your name and blog address in Mr. Linky below, and leave a comment letting me know what you think about my love affair with France, or your own love affair. And consider visiting the blogs of others who play along so we can all share the love.
I'm also linking to Paris in July. Hope you'll play along with both Dreaming of France and Paris in July. We can't have too much France love, right?
Saturday, July 23, 2016
Join West Metro Mommy for this weekly meme of photos people have taken and share on their blogs.
I mostly considered this an unimportant job because I thought the grassy area was fine, but apparently it always bugged my husband. And truthfully, I didn't do very much.
I did go to the store to buy plants, manure and mulch, which subsequently spilled in my car and I'll need to vacuum it now.
After one side was planted, I realized we didn't buy enough flowers, so I went back to the store for more and spent one steamy afternoon digging holes to add the extra flowers. But my eldest son discovered me in the act and came to help.
He also dug up the grass on the other side so my husband could plant, manure and mulch there. So mostly, I'm a bystander in this project.
Even though I didn't think it was necessary, it does look nice.
The morning glories come back up each year around our porch. Usually I take a picture to show how they cover the railings, but I wanted you to see one up close. They look silky and velvety.
And each year, I buy a flat of zinnias to plant. I don't know why sometimes they look like this. One or two simple stems and flowers.
And other times, they outdo themselves, like these.
Hope your summer and your gardens are doing well too.
Hope you'll also visit French Village Diaries today where she posted a review of Paris Runaway, my latest novel. There's a giveaway too, so be sure to enter.
Wednesday, July 20, 2016
I'm busy forcing myself to write these last few weeks of July -- write novels that is, instead of blog posts. So I might not be around as much as I should, but you can read some blog posts by me and some Q&As, if you're interested, on FranceBookTours this week.
Just click on the banner to see the entire schedule. So far this week we've had spotlights, which means book bloggers are kind enough to run the banner, along with a bio of me and some information about my novel. And throughout the online blog tour, there are chances to enter a copy of my novel. So if you are hoping to win a copy, visit all the blogs and enter to win. So far, it has been
Thursday will be another spotlight and chance to win at The Silver Dagger Scriptorium.
On Friday, you'll see an interview that really taxed my brain. I didn't notice until after I finished that the blogger said I could feel free to skip questions. Instead, I dug deep to come up with my scariest experience and how my first trips to France connected with early boyfriends. Well, on Friday you should visit Library of Clean Reads to see if you can read the entire interview. Make sure you leave a comment so I don't feel so alone.
The reviews begin this weekend, so I'll be sure to update you.
Thanks to everyone for your support for Paris Runaway. So far, it's a favorite of many people who have read my other novels.
If you don't want to wait to see if you won, you can find it available on ebook at Amazon, or in paperback at Amazon or Barnes & Noble.
Now, I'd better get back to writing.
Well, just a hint first, I'm working on a sequel to The Summer of France that's called Autumn in Aix. No secret from World War II this time, but an American with a plan to change the world wanders into Fia's bed and breakfast. Will she help protect more precious art or lose herself in her new French life?