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Houseboat on the Seine by William Wharton
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Houseboat on the Seine

by William Wharton

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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. ( )
2 vote booksinthebelfry | Jun 20, 2010 |
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