Overview


In 1920, Nicholas Kilmer's grandfather Frederick Frieseke, one of the preeminent American impressionists, purchased a farmhouse in Mesnil, a Norman town almost completely (to quote a local taxi driver) sunken away dans la nature. Until his death in 1939 he lived and painted there in the company of his wife and daughter. Long after the war that devastated Normandy, when Kilmer's grandmother's body was carried back from America to be buried alongside her husband in Mesnil, the family realized that they still ...
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A Place in Normandy

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Overview


In 1920, Nicholas Kilmer's grandfather Frederick Frieseke, one of the preeminent American impressionists, purchased a farmhouse in Mesnil, a Norman town almost completely (to quote a local taxi driver) sunken away dans la nature. Until his death in 1939 he lived and painted there in the company of his wife and daughter. Long after the war that devastated Normandy, when Kilmer's grandmother's body was carried back from America to be buried alongside her husband in Mesnil, the family realized that they still owned the remnants of a large old Norman house standing amid many acres of orchard, woodland, and pasture. A Place in Normandy is a chronicle of renewed love and restoration, "subtly catching the rhythms of life and the flavor of an American family at ease in another culture" (Publishers Weekly).
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
What distinguishes this account of the trials and joys of fixing up an old French farmhouse from many others like it is that Kilmer didn't buy the place but inherited it; also three generations of his family spent memorable years in it and in its Norman village of Mesnil, near Pont l'Evque. Long established, warm relations with the villagers protect Kilmer from regarding them as quaint or exotic. Even more unusual, although he and his wife, Julia, appreciate the excellence of French produce, Kilmer doesn't dwell on the familiar marvels of French cuisine. Instead, while shoring up the neglected place-roof, plumbing, bearing walls, electric wiring-is the impetus for his book, it also becomes an excursion into family history and a meditation on French village life since the 1920s, when his grandfather, American Impressionist painter Frederick Frieseke, bought the house. He traces each generation's structural additions and alterations, the gardens they planted, their parties, weddings, funerals, communions, crises and pleasures, and the distinctive beauties of the countryside. This quiet book subtly catches the rhythms of life and the flavor of an American family at ease in another culture. Photos. Jan.
Library Journal
In the wake of the success of Peter Mayle's A Year in Provence (LJ 4/1/90) and its successors have come several books about Americans and their homes in France. This one differs from other offerings because the house of the title has been in the author's family for three generations and the accompanying photographs depict the house and his grandparents in the 1920s as well as in more recent times. Whether to keep the ancestral home or sell the wreck of a place, with antique wiring and a bathroom shower stall whose floor caved in during the author's latest visit-that is the question, and can we doubt the answer? As one of the masons brought in to look at the house says, "A house like this is always getting into trouble, but it takes a long time to fall down completely." Kilmer (Harmony in Fresh and Black, Holt, 1995) has written more about his house than about Normandy or the neighbors or French culture. It is not as charming as Mayle's books but can find a home in travel collections.-Mary Ann Parker, California Dept. of Water Resources Law Lib., Sacramento
From the Publisher

"A comfortable book of considerable charm."-Los Angeles Times

"if one cannot cross that threshhold oneself, this book is undoubtedly the next best thing to a room with a view and a glass of calvados."-Smithsonian

"A Place in Normandy will quickly assume a place in the reader's heart."-Booklist

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781466871991
  • Publisher: Holt, Henry & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 5/20/2014
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 1,185,801
  • File size: 5 MB

Meet the Author


Nicholas Kilmer is the author of Harmony in Flesh and Black, Man with a Squirrel, and O Sacred Head, the first three installments in the Fred Taylor mystery series, which take place in Boston's art world. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
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