Finding Fontainebleau: An American Boy in France
In the 1950s, soon after the end of World War II, four-year-old Thad Carhart’s family—his NATO officer father, his mother, and his four siblings—packed up their suburban life in Arlington, Virginia, and moved to Fontainebleau, France, a lively provincial town surrounding a sprawling masterpiece of French architecture, the Château of Fontainebleau. In his new memoir, Finding Fontainebleau, New York Times bestselling author Carhart intertwines stories from his family’s years living in the shadow of the Château with the stories of the palace itself, from its heyday as the preferred royal hunting retreat to today, when efforts are underway to restore it to its former splendor.
Against the background of the rapid modernization of France in the 1950s stands the Château of Fontainebleau, an anchor against the seas of time. Begun in 1137, fifty years before the Louvre and more than five hundred before Versailles, the Château was a home for Marie-Antoinette, François I, and the two Napoleons, among others, all of whom added to its splendors without destroying the work of their predecessors. As a consequence, the Château is unique in France, a supreme repository of French style, taste, art, and architecture. Finding Fontainebleau tells the rich and improbable stories of these monarchs and their remarkable architectural legacy. Thoughtful, transporting, and often funny, Finding Fontainebleau is a fresh look at a lesser-known France, from the parks and museums of Paris – much less crowded in the 1950s, when you could walk through completely empty galleries in the Louvre – to the quieter joys of towns like Fontainebleau.
Thad Carhart is the author of The Piano Shop on the Left Bank, which is in its twenty-first edition with more than 160,000 copies sold in the U.S., and Across the Endless River, a historical novel. He grew up in a variety of places, including Washington, D.C.; Fontainebleau, France; Minneapolis, Minnesota; Amherst, Massachusetts; and Tokyo. After graduating from Yale, he worked for the State Department as an interpreter. He lives in Paris with his wife and two children.
Explore the lives of the French nobility in the Athenæum’s collections: The Marriage Progress of Marie Antoinette from Strasbourg to Paris (1770): A Personal Souvenir of the Queen, Bonapartes and American Marriages, and A Genealogical and Chronological Chart of the Rulers of England, Scotland, France, Germany, and Spain.