Houseboat on the Seine

ISBN 13: 9780007458080

Houseboat on the Seine

 
9780007458080: Houseboat on the Seine

The title brings to mind a luxury vessel on the most glamorous river in the world, but readers expecting to learn about the high life in France will be in for a surprise. In this charming memoir, painter and novelist Wharton (Birdy) instead gives us literally the nuts and bolts of building a houseboat, along with generous dollops of humor and local color. As a struggling artist in Paris with his schoolteacher wife and four children, Wharton decided to build his own boat after visiting that of an acquaintance in the mid-1970s. He recounts the family's adventures in making their dream come true. They gave up their Paris flat and moved onto the boat, which docked 12 miles downriver from Paris at Le Port Marly. There they spent the next 25 years adding the finishing touches. The most poignant moment comes at the wedding of oldest child, Kate, aboard ship. The author reminds us that she, her husband and their two children were to perish in 1988 in an Oregon fire, a tragedy he recounted in Ever After. Some readers might have preferred learning more about life aboard the boat than about the details of building it, but this work will satisfy Wharton devotees and Francophiles alike. (Jun.)

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Review:

From the title, William Wharton's Houseboat on the Seine sounds like it may be a river-bound version of Peter Mayle's A Year in Provence. Not exactly. Before he published his first novel, Birdy, Wharton was a painter and schoolteacher living in Paris. Bad judgment prevailed when he was offered the chance to buy a hulk of a houseboat that had once been the property of an Arctic explorer. Wharton said yes, and soon after, the houseboat sank. Most of the book recounts Wharton's two-decade long effort to first re-float and then rebuild the decrepit vessel.

About the Author:

A self-described painter who writes, William Wharton is the pen name for the author of two memoirs—Houseboat on the Seine and Ever After—as well as eight novels—Birdy, Dad, A Midnight Clear, Scumbler, Pride, Tidings, Franky Furbo, and Last Lovers. His works have been acclaimed worldwide and have been translated into over fifteen languages.

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