A Castle in the Backyard: The Dream of a House in Franceby Betsy Draine
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In one of the most beautiful river valleys in Europe, in the region known as Périgord in southwest France, castles crown the hills, and the surrounding villages seem carved all of a piece out of the local stone. In 1985, in the shadow of one of these medieval castles, Betsy Draine and Michael Hinden fell in love with a small stone house that became their summer home.
Like any romance, this one has had its ups and downs, and Betsy and Michael chart its course in this delightful memoir. They offer an intimate glimpse of a region little known to Americans—the Dordogne valley, its castles and prehistoric art, its walking trails and earthy cuisine—and describe the charms and mishaps of setting up housekeeping thousands of miles from home.
Along with the region’s terrain and culture, A Castle in the Backyard introduces us to the people of Périgord—the castle’s proprietor, the village children, the gossipy real-estate agent, the rascally mason, and the ninety-year-old widow with a tale of heartbreak. A celebration of a place and its people, the book also reflects on the future of historic Périgord as tourism and development pose a challenge to its graceful way of life.
- University of Wisconsin Press
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Meet the Author
Betsy Draine and Michael Hinden are professors emeritus of English at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. In addition to their scholarly writing, they have translated and edited The Walnut Cookbook by Jean-Luc Toussaint.
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As a dedicated Francophile and one who has always dreamed of having a house in France, I eagerly bought this book, hoping that it would be as good as its title promised. My expectations were exceeded. Betsy Draine and Micheal Hinden's account of their search for, purchase of, and summers spent in their house in the Dordogne is well-written and engaging. I hope they will write a second installment so that their readers can follow their further adventures (we hope) in their house with the castle in the backyard! I strongly recommend this book for anyone who loves France or who dreams of living abroad.
Two university professors buy a house to renovate in Dordogne under the shadow of a medieval castle. Much in the style of A Year in Provence and Under the Tuscan Sun and every bit as good (maybe better).