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FINDING FONTAINEBLEAU: An American Boy in France ~ Thad Carhart

Monday, July 11th, 2016

“Long before mass tourism and globalization, France was simple, soulful, and every inch stimulating.  Carhart knew it all and shares this with us with the deftness and insight of a master storyteller.”  (Cover:  Leonard Pitt, author of WALKS THROUGH LOST PARIS)

FINDING FONTAINBEBLEAU is a beguiling memoir of post war France with loving stories about baguettes and penmanship learned with quill pens and black ink.  I enjoyed every page and every story in this book and was sad when I turned the last page.  At age 4, Carhart’s military family was moved from the Virginia suburbs to Fontainebleau, France.  The family celebrated their move with trips all over the countryside and discoveries while attending French schools.  With five children and a big old “woodie” Chevy station wagon they explored.  The author captures a great deal about French culture and habits.  It is a remarkable story.

The Nazi invasion truly made a difference to the hearts and minds of the French and the subtle protections on the individual levels are recorded in the stories.  PBS is doing a series on the importance of NATO and this story talks about the beginnings of those treaties.  War changes so much.
About the Author

The son of an air force officer, Thad Carhart grew up in a variety of places, including Washington, D.C.; Fontainebleau, France; Minneapolis; Amherst, Massachusetts; and Tokyo. After graduating from Yale, he worked for the State Department as an interpreter. His first book, The Piano Shop on the Left Bank, appeared in 2000, published by Random House. Across the Endless River, a historical novel came out in 2009 with Doubleday. He lives in Paris. (AMAZON)

Thad Carhart Website
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I was constantly thinking about who I wanted to share this book with and for what occasion.  Carhart has returned to France with his family as an adult and has been given tours by the architect who is refurbishing The Castle Fontainebleau.  The layers of tile, the roofing material, the commitment of the people of France to their historic sites and the damage done by millions of tourists as they visit is fascinating.  Then the stories of the Kings, Queens, Mistresses and how they changed the buildings and added on to the design, and how consistent and authentic the designs and repairs were to the original buildings – fascinating.

The author’s Mother and the recorded stories about the 5 siblings and their adjustments to a new house and country are loving and often humorous.  The word delightful just keeps coming to mind.

I just wrapped up my copy for the biking architect in my family as his birthday is tomorrow and he will so enjoy this story to the max.  It did make me want to visit France and particularly Fontainebleau.  I have been excitedly talking about the book at my book groups as even though it is a very different read, I think they will enjoy the look at the 50s and what it would be like to be transplanted, not knowing the language, as a child.

TLC Book Tours   sent this book to me for review and it is wonderful.

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THE RED BOOK OF PRIMROSE HOUSE: a Potting Shed Mystery ~Marty Wingate

Wednesday, November 12th, 2014

“’And in landscape gardening,’ Repton wrote, ‘everything may be called a deception by which we endeavor to conceal the agency of art and make our works appear the sole product of nature.’”

Master Gardener Marty Wingate adds another mystery in the garden for Texas born Pru Parke to dig into and find the root of the problem.  I so enjoyed the first book in the series, THE GARDEN PLOT ,  I was delighted to be sent THE RED BOOK OF PRIMROSE HOUSE by TLC Book Tours   for review.   I received an uncorrected, unproofed e- copy so that I could share my excitement during the holiday season with you.

Pru Parke has returned to England to find a master gardener position and restore an historic garden back to its intended splendor.  As luck would have it, Pru and a Police Detective discover a romantic connection and that makes her restoration job at Primrose House even more delightful an opportunity.  The house has already been restored as Hugh and Davina have purchased Primrose House from the Earl of Hamilton.  They are so happy to hire Pru to muster the gardens and are able to give her the hundreds of years old master plans (1806) from the original designer – Humphrey Repton.  His plans are in what is called The Red Book and they contain beautiful descriptions and watercolors of his original concepts and ideas.  Pru hides the valuable book in her cottage on the grounds.   Right away little, strange events begin to happen.

The descriptions of the gardens and the work of digging holes, finding hundreds of roses, repairing masonry walls, dozens of heritage apple trees and terracing the hillside draw an incredible image to the mind’s eye and one can nearly smell the earthy ground work and the greenhouse heaters.

Scary moments begin to happen as are an integral part of any mystery.  There are lights at night and strange noises and then the shed catches fire.  The local newspaper starts a blog about the garden restoration and repeatedly mentions in the post are being singled out for disruption.  The project is damaged and stopped several times and with a deadline fast approaching the pressure is on to discover the culprit.

There is a secondary mystery in THE RED BOOK OF PRIMROSE HOUSE as Pru searches to discover if she has any relatives living in England after the death of her British born mum.

The eighteenth-century manor house in Sussex fascinated the gardener from Texas who is being severely tested along with her well – meaning  crew – Ned, Liam and Fergal Duffy, Ivy and Robbie and then all the police.  There are some good pub scenes and the secondary characters add some serious problems and that good British humor and whimsy. The language was fun and kept the pace of the story progressing, developing and moving the reader from cup of tea to cup of tea.

The book was incredibly entertaining and a fun read.  I enjoyed THE RED BOOK OF PRIMROSE HOUSE from cover to cover.

From the book jacket:

“Marty Wingate writes about gardens and travel, and she has now combined those two loves with her passion of mysteries.  Mary’s how-to-garden information is available in books, online, and on the radio.  She lives in Seattle with her husband, who shares her love of travel and is always ready for on-the-ground research into pubs and English beer.  Learn more about her at marytwingate.com

Marty Wingate Facebook

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