It is 1948 and a young American couple arrive in France for a holiday. It is their chance to immerse themselves in the culture and language, and they arrive full of anticipation and enthusiasm. But the countryside and people are war-battered and their reception at the Chateau Beaumesnil, where they begin their stay, is not all the open-hearted Americans could wish for. Every encounter leaves them with more questions. Why are they not welcomed as citizens of the nation that liberated Europe? What are the secrets in the family?
"I can think of few novels… that have such romantic authority as The Chateau, fewer still so adult in vitality, so alight with humour." (Elizabeth Bowen)
"No one else… can capture as Maxwell does a sense of life in the balance, of a moment appreciated…. The beauty of some sentences is like a stab of light." (Chicago Tribune)
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- John S.
The Chateau, by William Maxwell
Odd hesitations in all the dialog, mispronounced French words
I enjoyed listening to this -- it was soothing and managed to hold my interest somehow even though almost nothing actually happens. It is about a young American couple moving around France as tourists during the years right after World War II, wondering about the oddities of the characters they meet and cultural differences that often baffle them. If you love France and/or William Maxwell, all this will be of interest, but be warned that the story amasses small mysteries which, just as in life, are only explained by conjecture. Because I love this author and his other books, I was willing to accept this but could certainly sympathize with any reader who finds it frustrating. This is not Maxwell's best book by a long shot (try TIME WILL DARKEN IT or THE FOLDED LEAF), but his wonderful voice is fully present. I was less pleased with the reading performance. To my ear, the French accents sounded labored, and I know that many of the words were mispronounced. It should have been possible to find a bilingual reader for this work!