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.
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February 26, 2013
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