A beguiling memoir of a childhood in 1950s France from the much-admired New York Times bestselling author of The Piano Shop on the Left Bank
"Like the castle, [Carhart's] memoir imaginatively and smoothly integrates multiple influences, styles and whims."—The New York Times
For a young American boy in the 1950s, Fontainebleau was a sight both strange and majestic, home to a continual series of adventures: a different language to learn, weekend visits to nearby Paris, family road trips to Spain and Italy. Then there was the château itself: a sprawling palace once the residence of kings, its grounds the perfect place to play hide-and-seek. The curiosities of the small town and the time with his family as expats left such an impression on him that thirty years later Carhart returned to France with his wife to raise their two children. Touring Fontainebleau again as an adult, he began to appreciate its influence on French style, taste, art, and architecture. Each trip to Fontainebleau introduces him to entirely new aspects of the château's history, enriching his memories and leading him to Patrick Ponsot, the head of the château’s restoration, who becomes Carhart’s guide to the hidden Fontainebleau.
What emerges is an intimate chronicle of a time and place few have experienced. In warm, precise prose, Carhart reconstructs the wonders of his childhood as an American in postwar France, attending French schools with his brothers and sisters. His firsthand account brings to life nothing less than France in the 1950s, from the parks and museums of Paris to the rigors of French schooling to the vast château of Fontainebleau and its village, built, piece by piece, over many centuries. Finding Fontainebleau is for those captivated by the French way of life, for armchair travelers, and for anyone who has ever fallen in love with a place they want to visit over and over again.
|Publisher:||Penguin Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.70(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.30(d)|
About the Author
Todd McLaren was involved in radio for more than twenty years in cities on both coasts. He left broadcasting for a full-time career in voice-overs, where he has been heard on more than 5,000 TV and radio commercials, as well as TV promos, narrations for documentaries on such networks as A&E and the History Channel, and films.
Reading Group Guide
1. A memoir lies at the heart of Finding Fontainebleau, a story of the author’s life in France in the ’50s. Carhart begins the narrative with his boyhood account of the long prop airplane trip to France, and then the impressions this new place made on him. Are there aspects reminiscent of other stories—fiction or nonfiction—where the reader discovers a new world at the same time as the author? Is the France of sixty years ago more “exotic” than the country we know today? Discuss why that might be the case. 01
2. The Château of Fontainebleau figures prominently as the focus of restoration efforts in the present day. Similar work goes on in almost all countries, but the French have their own approach. How does Carhart’s account set forth the French philosophy of restoration? Are there similarities to how Americans care for their own national treasures?
3. Carhart’s experiences and adventures in France as a boy are always seen against the background of a large family—five children—living immersed in things French. They had no TV, one portable record player, and only French radio. How would things be different in the present day for a big American family living abroad?
4. Finding Fontainebleau gives us accounts of many of the kings and queens who lived at Fontainebleau and built its many parts. What traditions did they share that made their projects at Fontainebleau distinctive? Now that the monarchy is a thing of the past, how does the French Republic square its democratic ideals with the safeguarding of France’s oldest royal residence?
5. Carhart tells us how the Château has been threatened with ruin several times over its long history, most recently during the German occupation of France during World War II. How would its loss diminish the cultural inheritance of France in particular, and of Western civilization in general? Why is its survival important?
6. Discuss the ways in which Carhart’s account of his upbringing in Fontainebleau of the ’50s differed from the ways he and his wife raised their own children in Paris in the ’90s. What similarities—and differences—struck you? 01
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I took five years of French in jr high and high school and remember vaguely learning enough about Fontainebleau to fit on a post card. How wonderful must it have been for Mr. Carhart to spend his childhood growing up nearby. And then to go back as an adult and get the 'backstage tour'? C'est magnifique! This is the kind of story that makes history come alive. To hear it from someone who was there, and for a long enough period of time to really dive into his or her subject. It's like learning a foreign language by immersion in the culture. The text went back and forth between the author's childhood and the 'present'. The transitions were very smooth and each story added something to the one before or after it. Like the story of the shooting of a teacher one day at school. From his childhood...it's like watching the start of some terrible event in slow-motion and then things speed up into utter chaos. And then Mr. Carhart speaks to the administrator some years later and she says something along the lines of, "Wow! That really happened?!?" Also amusing were the accounts of his mother's 'inventory' with the landlady of the state of the house and its contents before the move in and shortly before they moved out. I have to say I side with the renters on this one. Perhaps the landlady felt they were renting Fontainebleau itself and not a house in the town. The house was another thing he got to visit both as a child and as an adult, although by that time it had been turned into a set of offices. If you can't get to Fontainebleau on your own, reading this book is the next best thing. (Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.)
Originally posted @ http://readaholiczone.blogspot.com/2016/06/a-review-of-finding-fontainebleau.html A fun fact to begin with is Fontainebleau is pronounced “Phone-Ten-Blow” As a reader, you do not need to have a fascination with French history to enjoy this book. Carhart did an incredible job of interweaving all the different aspects of the book from his childhood in 1950’s France, the history of Chateau Fontainebleau, including bringing his own family over to France in the 1980’s to live in the town of Fontainebleau. In addition, the authors captivation with the quaint town of Fontainebleau kept seducing him to return like many of us are drawn to chocolate. Therefore, doing a beautiful job of telling the history of Chateau Fontainebleau & who from French history starting in 1137 with King Louis VII made an impact on the evolution of it from a hunting lodge to a magnificent museum. My favorite part of the book are the years Carhart spent during his childhood in postwar France. How they lived reminded me of my summers in Northern Michigan with a wood-fired stove, no television, and spending quality time with the family. It is genuinely enjoyable reading about Carhart’s vivid memories as a child, the trips as a family, plus the overall antics that conspired. France was so different compared to America back in the 1950’s I loved reading about it and the traditions that are still in place today. "Thank you, Viking Publishing, for letting me give this unbiased review"