Two decades ago, I fell under the charm of Thad Carhart’s memoir The Piano Shop on the Left Bank, the story of the complexities and subtleties of an ex-pat family living in Paris. When I saw that Carhart had written another memoir, I added it to my booklist. This one is entitled Finding Fontainebleau: An American Boy in France.
In the 1950s, Carhart’s large family moved to Fontainebleau, a small city not far from Paris dominated by a royal château that spans about nine hundred years of French history. (Coincidentally, the branch of the American company that my husband works for is located there, so he occasionally gets to travel to Fontainebleau on business.) Carhart’s father, a NATO officer, actually had his office in a wing of the castle. The family of seven rented a large home that shared a back wall with the extensive château gardens, so it was an integral part of their lives. Carhart intersperses family anecdotes with the history of the castle. He also had extraordinary access to the château’s restoration when he moved back to France as an adult, being allowed to tag along with the chief architect.
I learned things I had never heard of before, such as the ill-fated program to required all school children to drink milk. My husband is from a large family who experienced several international postings in the 50s through the early 80s. I kept envisioning the stories as though they were happening to the Gilberts. The Carhart family’s fairly disastrous first camping expedition reminded me of some of my own family’s stories involving tents and prodigious amounts of rain. The book delighted me from beginning to end, and I highly recommend it to you.