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The Chateau (1961)

af William Maxwell

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296566,367 (3.88)18
It is 1948 and a young American couple arrive in France for a holiday, full of anticipation and enthusiasm. But the countryside and people are war-battered, and their reception at the Chateau Beaumesnil is not all the open-hearted Americans could wish for.

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Viser 5 af 5
This is one of the most affecting and beautifully written books I have ever had the pleasure to read. A gem. ( )
  RobCorb | Sep 14, 2010 |
The Chateau is, at first glance, somewhere in between Henry James' tales of American innocents abroad in wicked old Europe, and Nancy Mitford's comic tales of the duplicitous, but irresistable post war French aristocratic classes. Maxwell keeps his story of a young American couple, adrift in a Europe that veers from romantic to baffling, welcoming to resistant, fresh and light. The story focuses on the impossibility of communication between different cultures and languages, an America flexing its modern muscles partly in love and partly in hate with the 'old world'. Conversations and gestures, near misses and hits, ordering in restaurants and finding a bed in a hotel, French plumbing and French history, all slyly show a cultural gap that sometimes gapes as wide as the Atlantic, sometimes narrows to a kiss on the cheek. This is a wise and clever novel.
  otterley | Jun 27, 2010 |
The Chateau is part unscripted mystery, part travel journal, part piercing cultural study. The premise-- an American couple traveling in France after WWII only to find things less perfect and picturesque than expected-- is interesting enough. But, it is Maxwell's writing that really carries this book from a 3 star to a 4 1/2 star novel. He perfectly captures so many personal, yet universal moments in language that is subtle, moving, even ethereal.

The real treat of the book (besides the writing) is the very unconventional "Part II: Some Explanations" aka the last 50 pages of the book. Here, in an entirely different tone, which is a Q&A between himself and a reader, Maxwell explains the many stories behind the story-- the French story. Knowing this part was coming did help me through some of the more agonizing parts of the plot in Part I.

There are many passages in French, some long. you can make enough sense from the context to limp through, but if you can read French (or have a spouse who can) it does help. If you are hoping for an action packed plot, The Chateau will disappoint, but there is a plot; it is very carefully doled out much as life's plot is, and is delivered in such beautiful prose you won't want it to end. It is a pity that Maxwell's works seem to be largely unknown, particularly in the U.S. ( )
  technodiabla | Oct 8, 2009 |
Set in the Loire Valley in 1948 in the aftermath of WW2 the book sensitively evokes the atmosphere of a battered but still proud corner of France. Mme Vienot, the former chatelaine turned now proprietor of the Chateau Beaumesnil, struggles to restore the family's fortunes by taking in paying guests.

Harold and Barbara Rhodes, a young American couple, provide an anchor as the book's central characters whilst he fractured family and unlikely friends, guests and neighbours come and go creating a rich tapestry of mystery and romance.

The Chateau evokes romance in the true sense of the word, one worth reading again and again. ( )
  eas | Apr 15, 2007 |
Viser 5 af 5
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“... wherever one looks twice there is some mystery.”

Elizabeth Bowen,

A World of Love
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“... a chestnut that we find, a stone, a shell in the gravel, everything speaks as though it had been in the wilderness and had meditated and fasted. And we have almost nothing to do but listen.... ”
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It is 1948 and a young American couple arrive in France for a holiday, full of anticipation and enthusiasm. But the countryside and people are war-battered, and their reception at the Chateau Beaumesnil is not all the open-hearted Americans could wish for.

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