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Houseboat on the Seine: A Memoir Hardcover – July 1, 1996


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow; First Edition edition (July 1, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1557042721
  • ISBN-13: 978-1557042729
  • Product Dimensions: 0.9 x 6.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,998,944 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

From the title, William Wharton's Houseboat on the Seine sounds like it may be a river-bound version of Peter Mayle's A Year in Provence. Not exactly. Before he published his first novel, Birdy, Wharton was a painter and schoolteacher living in Paris. Bad judgment prevailed when he was offered the chance to buy a hulk of a houseboat that had once been the property of an Arctic explorer. Wharton said yes, and soon after, the houseboat sank. Most of the book recounts Wharton's two-decade long effort to first re-float and then rebuild the decrepit vessel.

From Publishers Weekly

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.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Matthew M. Liggett on June 28, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Wharton is very good at creating a nostalgic mood for any American who is infatuated with (and occasionally infuriated by) the French. Wharton describes the trials of buying, restoring and living aboard a houseboat. Though he finds hassles around nearly every corner, he manages to keep his head above water and provides a light-hearted narration.
Wharton lives for years in France, but clearly retains a very American spirit through it all, which helps make this story accessible.
A pleasant, quick read for any American who finds himself missing Europe's quirks. If you are prone to buying and fixing old boats, cars, airplanes or houses, then you will find even more here.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Michael K. McKeon on July 12, 2001
Format: Hardcover
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".
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By "momelly" on September 2, 2002
Format: Hardcover
This was the first book I read by Wm. Wharton. I found it so interesting I couldn't put it down. It held my interest right away. I loved it. He is a very detailed writer and keeps my interested to the end. I continued to find other books by him.
Ever After is another to hold ones interest. As before he is an exellent writer. Would love to see his paintings also.
I would say anyone who reads his books won't be disappointed.
Eleanor C.Roby
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By John Knight on October 21, 2001
Format: Hardcover
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.
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