Houseboat on the Seine

Houseboat on the Seine

Book - 1996
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Baker & Taylor
Available for the first time in English, this unforgettable wartime memoir details the late author's harrowing experiences during World War II, events that influenced some of his greatest works, including his National Book Award winner Birdy. 25,000 first printing.

Norton Pub
William Wharton's second memoir and tenth book is a delightful, often hilarious saga of the misadventures of an American artist in Paris dealing with a houseboat that refuses to stay afloat.


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.)

Blackwell North Amer
Before he ever wrote or published his first book (Birdy), William Wharton had moved from Los Angeles to Paris and was making a modest living as a painter. His wife, Rosemary, taught kindergarten at the American School there and had a friend who happened to live on a houseboat.
What a romantic notion, living on a houseboat in Paris!
Although the idea was bewitching to his wife and family, the actual business of moving onto a boat in the middle of the Seine seemed out of the question, absurd.
Until one suddenly becomes available.
Everyone in the family had quite happily been living in a small apartment in Paris and was very mobile: Paris in spring and fall, Bavaria in summer and for Christmas, then southern Spain for winter.
But just smell the air, Dad, how great it would be.
In a final attempt to make everyone happy - and forget the whole thing - Wharton decides to offer a ridiculous, insultingly low offer for a boat that is in actuality nothing more than a crippled wooden hulk.
And the bid is accepted!
So for the next three months, painting - as well as reality itself - is suspended in the interest of romance, excitement, adventure, witchcraft, and building a houseboat on the Seine. William Wharton's exuberant tenth book - and second memoir - follows a determined artist, the boat he salvages, and the people who help his sometimes conflicted dream. It is the story of the undaunted French engineer M. Teurnier, who raises the boat from the river, and in a feat of engineering whimsy, floats it on a steel hull while his eleven-year-old daughter acts as an English translator. It is a portrait of French life as seen with Wharton's keen eye for detail and color. And it is the story of a family, where a father looks back with wisdom, pride, and humor at the hurdles his wife and four children have encountered and overcome. Finally, however, A Houseboat on the Seine is about home, finding one, making one, and keeping one for over twenty-five years, even if it does happen to be in the least likely of places.

& Taylor

The author reflects on his family's decision to live on a houseboat on the Seine, detailing the renovation of a crippled vessel, the excitement and adventure experienced by his family, and the French lifestyle

Publisher: New York : Newmarket Press, c1996
ISBN: 9781557042729
Branch Call Number: BIO B/Wharton WHA
Characteristics: 224 p. ;,23 cm.


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Mar 18, 2014

This was an okay book, but I expected it to be more like "A Year in Provence" where there were anecdotes of life on the river. There were some of these stories which were the best part of the book. The majority of the book was exhausting detail about building the houseboat. So unless you are a contractor or in love with details of dovetailing, installing heaters and flooring, this book gets tedious.


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