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.
|File size:||2 MB|
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I picked this book up at a Friends of the Library book sale, hoping for a light summer read and an armchair escape from the doldrums. Wharton turns out to have been far more engaged with the carpentry-related implications of his family's decision to install themselves on a houseboat on the Seine than with cross-cultural exchange or local color. To be fair, salvaging the boat after various mishaps and making it habitable was a project requiring staggering effort and expense, and one understands that it would have completely taken over the life of anyone directly involved with it. As a reader, however, I find my attention constantly wandering away from all the blueprint detail and minutiae, and it's only unfinished book guilt that's keeping me turning pages in the hope of catching a glimpse of what Wharton's experience in France meant to him on a less technical and more personal level. (Possibly a better way to discover that might be to view the paintings he made during the same period, some of which were produced specifically to underwrite repairs and improvements to the boat.)My disappointment in this book drove me to pick up yet another book from the Friends of the Library shelves, C'est la vie by Suzy Gershner (the Born to Shop lady). It started out in a satisfyingly light and amusing vein, but then degenerated into the realm of just plain silly. So if you're in the mood for an armchair adventure in France, I would recommend passing up both Gershner & Wharton and combing the Friends of the Library shelves for an old favorite, French Dirt : the Story of a Garden in the South of France by Richard Goodman.
I'm an engineer so I could mostly follow his descriptions of his efforts to restore a decrepit old boat. But there was way too much description about the most trivial challenges he had to overcome. Boring. And he's a painter. A few sketches would have proven useful. Also a few before and after photos (or paintings) would have been much more interesting then pages of dialogue about locating a couple of bolts (for instance). Maybe interesting if you're really into restoring old boats, otherwise a waste of time.