Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “A Castle in the Backyard: The Dream of a House in France” as Want to Read:
A Castle in the Backyard: The Dream of a House in France
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

A Castle in the Backyard: The Dream of a House in France

3.87  ·  Rating Details ·  138 Ratings  ·  30 Reviews
    In one of the most beautiful river valleys in Europe, in the region known as Périgord in southwest France, castles crown the hills, and the surrounding villages seem carved all of a piece out of the local stone. In 1985, in the shadow of one of these medieval castles, Betsy Draine and Michael Hinden fell in love with a small stone house that became their summer home.
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published August 15th 2002 by University of Wisconsin Press
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about A Castle in the Backyard, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about A Castle in the Backyard

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Jan 14, 2016 Tomomi rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Never taken a French class in my life, never dreamed of one day going to France beyond the natural desire to just go someplace beautiful and different in general. I never would have picked this book up if it wasn't for my librarian who recommended her current favorite to me; which is how I came to pick up A Castle in the Backyard. I've always had a little wanderlust and immediately found myself intrigued, especially since Madison,WI is practically in my own backyard and the authors both taught a ...more
Jeanmarie Jones
Jul 05, 2016 Jeanmarie Jones rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Not what I expected - thought it would be more about the house itself, but I like how it turned out.
For any French fanatics, it just makes you want to up and join them! Loved the description of the town/villages and the FOOD! With my love of Madison in particular - having lived there twice, I'd go back in a heartbeat if I could - it was nice to see them mention it and their work and the university a bit.
Jun 21, 2017 Holly rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I would finish a chapter and "come to" realizing that I was in my air conditioned house in Maryland, not in summertime Castlenaud. And I would feel very disappointed! Very absorbing tale of their adventures living in a small Medieval town.
May 22, 2011 Peggy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is another in the series of books I am currently reading about Americans who buy houses in Europe.
This couple are English professors at the University of Wisconsin in Madison and they buy a house in the village of Castelnaud, France (recently featured in the New York Times Sunday travel section).
This book is less lyrical than Frances Maye's books and less humorous than Peter Mayle's book but engaging nevertheless.
I am not sure why I enjoy these books so much but I find reading a chapter bef
David Timms
Apr 06, 2012 David Timms rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended by the landlord of the 500 year old stone house we rented in Beynac-et-Cazenac because it's one of the neighboring villages, it intrigued me. I wanted to get the feeling of the Dordogne Noir and so borrowed this from the local library. As I read it I kept wanting to highlight it, so bought the book. Loved it, (and I did highlight my not-to-be-forgotten parts) and enjoyed sharing it with friends. If you are intrigued with SouthWestern France, the Dordogne region, French food... Enjoy! ...more
Jeanette Michalets
I greatly enjoyed this memoir as it was well written and I almost always enjoy memoirs by people who have lived in France. This time it was southern France, rather than Paris, so the scenery was different and the people seemed different, as well. The book spurred an interest in me to visit
the south.

The authors are former UW professors of English, so that added to my enjoyment. I appreciated the references to Madison as well as the lush descriptions of the French countryside in the department o
Jul 29, 2011 Julie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
i couldn't put it down. loved reading of how the thought grew, of buying a summer house in france, as they were professors in wisconsin and had their summers somewhat free. the writing is well-done and the stories, interesting. i kept putting it down and picking it back up. i found myself writing down place names to look up on picasa so that i could see the places they were describing. definitely worth reading.
Jul 19, 2014 Kathy rated it really liked it
Wanderlust inducing! Daydreaming right now about a visit to southern France. When Betsy Draine and Michael Hinden wrote this memoir, they were professors at the University of Wisconsin in Madison where I live. So I'd read a review when the book first came out and finally got around to reading it. Their vivid descriptions and alliterative language really make the Dordogne region and its inhabitants come to life.
May 27, 2014 Carmen rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel
Betsy and her husband, Michael, are college professors. They frequently travel to Europe and decide to buy a house in the Dordogne region of France. This book details the experiences they had searching for a house, buying it, and remodeling it. Then the years they enjoyed staying in it, even with all the outside influences. Who knew that having a castle in your backyard could lead to so many problems? Entertaining.
Gypsy Madre
Mar 19, 2014 Gypsy Madre rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved Mayes Under the Tuscan Sun (book, not movie so much) and thought this couldn't compete -- so wrong. Completely engaging. I felt like I was there and fell in love with the townspeople, the community, and the adventure. I have never much thought of going to France; that has changed! And today, I am making the walnut cake! :)
Dec 19, 2007 Davy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel, dnf
I didn't finish this one, but I got what I wanted out of it. A married couple (both American English professors) search for, find, and refurbish an authentic stone house under the ruins of a castle in the Dordogne Valley of France. The search, purchase, and renovations of the house made for an entertaining read, but when the narrative turned towards the townspeople, I lost interest.
Jan 10, 2015 Cindy rated it it was ok
As a retired high school and middle school French teacher, I am pretty keen on all things French, but this book missed the mark. Rich in description, there were still parts that were dry as a bone. They did meet some lively characters, but unless one is somewhat avid about France, I think they will find this book a bit of a chore to read.
Feb 14, 2010 Shawna rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
A delightful and pleasant read. The authors were down to earth, very real people. They made village life seem peacful and so appealing. It was interesting to learn what owning a summer home entails in France entails.
Dave Pickhardt
A 3 for no pictures! Reading this book preceded 2 trips to France and the Dordogne valley. We visited the neighborhood and think we may have spotted the house, based on the story of the. Catapult, but who knows with NO PICTURES!
This is just okay - somewhat uneven. The first half - when they are concocting a plan to buy a French house, embark upon the search, get settled in, etc. - is far more entertaining than the later parts. But it was amusing enough, I guess.
Jun 20, 2013 Cathy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's been several years since I read this, but I still have fond memories of what I experienced as I read the couple's account of finding their dream summer home in France and establishing friendships there.
Oct 13, 2016 Karen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was an interesting introduction to the Perigord region of France. I wish there had been pictures, but I did learn a lot about people there, even though I Suspect that has changed a lot since the book as written. I don't expect to get there in this life, so this was a fun read.
Jan 28, 2010 Beverly rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
On my Kindle. A fun escape. I'm an armchair ex-pat. Would probably never do anything like this, so it's fun to read about someone else's experiences buying a home in another country. Kind of like House Hunters in print.
Jan 10, 2011 Lauri rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Given that the part of France where this couple bought their house is one of my favorites, I really liked this book, but I would imagine someone who wasn't as familiar with the region might not like it quite as much. It's not nearly as engaging as "A Year in Provence" for example.
Jun 23, 2009 Jennifer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Makes me want to move to France
Great descriptions of Southwestern France seen through the eyes of an engaging American couple.
Jul 29, 2010 Tina rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this book. An enjoyable read. Lamenting the loss of what France was and has become.
Jun 29, 2011 Joellen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoirs
Good summer read that encourages daydreams of running away and buying that French villa.
Mar 06, 2010 Nicole rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: french-life
Delightful story of summers in southern France, where a couple of professors buy a house and learn to live in a charming village
Sep 03, 2010 Andrea rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A wonderful book! Quite inspiring and thorough in the high points of the region.
Cyndi Berve
A dream of a house in France.
Jan 24, 2015 Claire rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This sounded interesting, but previous political feelings disrupted my enjoyment of this travelogue/house maintenance book.
Jun 09, 2015 Pat rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Nice book off the sale table. Couple summer in Dordogne and buy an old house. The friends they meet, year after year.
Lori Murray
Lori Murray rated it it was amazing
Aug 26, 2014
« previous 1 3 4 5 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Live from Jordan: Letters Home from My Journey Through the Middle East
  • French Impressions:: The Adventures of an American Family
  • From Here, You Can't See Paris: Seasons of a French Village and Its Restaurant
  • It's All Greek to Me!: A Tale of a Mad Dog and an Englishman, Ruins, Retsina--and Real Greeks
  • The Olive Season
  • At Home in France: Tales of an American and Her House Abroad
  • The Cook and the Gardener: A Year of Recipes and Notes from the French Countryside
  • The House in France: A Memoir
  • The Ripening Sun: One Woman and the Creation of a Vineyard
  • Expat: Women's True Tales of Life Abroad
  • Chasing Che: A Motorcycle Journey in Search of the Guevara Legend
  • England For All Seasons
  • The Guynd: A Scottish Journal
  • Celebration, U.S.A.: Living in Disney's Brave New Town
  • Vanilla Beans & Brodo: Real Life in the Hills of Tuscany
  • Chronicles of My Life: An American in the Heart of Japan
  • My French Life
  • Very Charleston: A Celebration of History, Culture, and Lowcountry Charm

Share This Book