I was sent this conversation from Viking, the publisher. I think it will give you some insight about Carhart and his journey from America to France.
Q. Many parts of FINDING FONTAINEBLEAU are written in the same vein as THE PIANO SHOP ON THE LEFT BANK. What do you feel are the similarities, and the differences?
I’ve been very lucky with THE PIANO SHOP ON THE LEFT BANK, an international bestseller that is still in print. A writer is never entirely sure why a book captures the public’s imagination, but I think a big part of PIANO SHOP’S appeal has been the look at French life away from the familiar tourist circuit. It’s not that easy to get below the surface of things in France, and readers seem to have been hungry for stories about a French approach to things in Paris. In this respect, FINDING FONTAINEBLEAU has a similar voice and scope, though the setting of the little Parisian shop is replaced by our family’s big old rented house in Fontainebleau and the adjacent Chậteau.
Q. In FINDING FONTAINEBLEAU you recall events that took place when you were a very young boy living in France and America. How did you preserve and access these boyhood memories in order to write the book?
The clearest answer I can give is that it had to do with the intensity and focus that came with learning a new language at a young age. It wasn’t a matter of choice-I had to learn French in order to function in my new school, and so I did. This happens frequently in our world, but it’s still something of a miracle The immediate consequence for me, who learned to read and write French before English, is that I paid very close attention to just about everything: words, of course, but also clothes and games and food. Since we spoke English at home and French at school, it was as if everything was filtered in two languages, every day, as I learned to name the world around me. The effect on memory was direct and abiding.
The interview goes on to speak of most of the great chậteaux of France which Carhart has visited. And asks why one is more popular with visitors than another. And to say that if a visitor to France wishes to understand the richness and breadth of French history, no structure tells the story better than the multiple winds and courtyards of Fontainebleau. Carhart does not regard himself as a missionary for things French, but he does enjoy telling stories that allow others to appreciate the human qualities that still set France apart.
I’ve long been interested in France. I’m not sure I know why. It just intrigues me. Greatly. I read a lot about France. And feel like I’m a sponge when it comes to all things French. I find I am not alone. The past few years have seemed to bring a renewed interest to France, and mostly to Paris. If you are one of the many people who love to read and learn about French history and the amazing people and their heritage, this book comes highly recommended. Not only informative, it’s witty and fun to read. You can live vicariously through the life of Thad Carhart and learn as you immerse yourself in this vivid world of Carhart’s making. Enjoy!