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» » Houseboat on the Seine: A Memoir
Houseboat on the Seine: A Memoir


William Wharton


Houseboat on the Seine: A Memoir


Biographies & Memoris

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1786 kb

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1697 kb

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William Morrow; First Edition edition (July 1, 1996)







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Houseboat on the Seine: A Memoir by William Wharton

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.)

A simple narrative from the writer William Wharton (artist Albert Du Aime), about him, his family and how they came to live on a boat on the river Seine. Despite sometimes fraught occasions the story is soothing and pleasant as that recounted by a friend who one hasn’t seen for some time and happily encountered with time enough for the story to be shared and enjoyed.
If you've ever wanted to live on a houseboat, this will be of interest to you. This book is a, well written, first hand account of the trials of one families experience with a "fixer upper".
An amazing family and non-professional construction story. Wharton is the best!
Great writer and down to earth
I have only read two of William Wharton's other books, Birdy and Last lovers, both of which I thought were brilliant although not at all similar.
Houseboat on the Seine is a different type of book completely. It is certainly no literary masterpiece, but it has it's own fascination. When I bought it I was not expecting to be brilliant, having read other peoples reviews. Certainly as other reviewers have pointed out it contains a lot of detail such as how to nail together some wood to make a floor, wall paneling, a ceiling, a gangplank etc., or how not to moor your houseboat to a river bank.
What is fascinating though is watching how Wharton makes a small investment to realize a minor dream, and then gets dragged into a series of ever increasing expensive and time consuming investments to keep the dream alive. There are many points where he seems to be out of his depth with what is going on around him, but he pumps the money in regardless, despite the fact he had precious little of it at the time. As he goes on this minor dream becomes major and in fact takes over his life.
It is interesting to speculate whether put in the same situation you would persevere as he did, or at which point you would have walked away from the whole calamity.
The last twenty pages or so fall apart somewhat, and it sometimes feels like he had a target number of pages to write, but that he had finished the main story long before writing them.
I recommend it as a character study and as a tool for doing some self-evaluation, not as what most people would consider to be a gripping piece of entertainment though. Having said that I read cover to cover over two evenings.
If you find home restoration stories interesting you will find this an intriguing and satisfying read. However, despite the title and location the book contains exceedingly little in the way of descriptions of French atmosphere, scenery, or culture, virtually none, actually. While this doesn't necessarily detract from what is an interesting memoir, Wharton's story could have taken place on the Mississippi or Hudson for its descriptions of the host nation.
It is an amazing story of fortitude and luck. The story begins with Wharton's acquisition of a houseboat and what appears to be a lingering plague of bad luck. However, through sheer determination he surmounts it, and in so doing he attracts the advice and help of people interesting in making his houseboat reconstruction project a success. In the process he learns alot about himself, and the project galvanizes what is a family distinctive in patience, character, flexibility, and sense of adventure.
An interesting side note is the allusions to what is a seemingly cohesive American ex-patriot community which seems to live in France but not to assimilate. One gets the impression that they appreciate the location, but aren't inclined to acclimate to French society.
The book isn't great literature and about 4/5 of the way through, after describing grueling tests and continually avoiding devastating failures, he suddenly begins to describe his life approaching retirement 20 years later...with virtually no segue. Hmmm. Still, an interesting book. The intricate (excessive?) detail given to the reconstruction project will appeal to a distinctive audience; this might be generalized as a "men's interest book".
William Wharton, American expatriate in France, author and artist, determines to live in a houseboat on the Seine. It promptly sinks. The book recounts the refloating, repositioning and refurbishing of this old tub. Somehow, he does it with the help of friends and a very bright, very practical teenaged friend. As I can barely find my way around a hardware store--and care less--I didn't appreciate the cleverness of the rehab, but I did enjoy the people and the stories abounding in the countryside. Wharton, of course, succeeds. He may be a moderately annoying expat, but he writes an interesting book.
My daughter lived on a boat 2 or 3 away from Wharton's toward the rowing club during this time and actually witnessed some of the incidents mentioned.

I visited her on the boat ("Black Moon") later and when I stumbled on this book in my local library (Morgan Hill, CA), I put some of my photos into the book so people could see what the area looks like.

Now, a dozen or so years later the book is still there but my photos have disappeared. 8^)

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