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The Chateau

3.62  ·  Rating Details  ·  325 Ratings  ·  50 Reviews
It is 1948 and a young American couple arrive in France for a holiday, full of anticipation and enthusiasm. But the countryside and people are war-battered, and their reception at the Chateau Beaumesnil is not all the open-hearted Americans could wish for.
Published December 28th 2000 by Vintage Classics (first published January 1st 1961)
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(showing 1-30 of 888)
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Dec 04, 2013 Teresa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A well-written (Maxwell doesn't write any other way) novel with a nostalgic feel (again, Maxwell doesn't seem to write any other way), with the longer first part (of two) reading almost like a travel diary at times; and just when you're wondering, near the end of that first part, what it might all mean, you arrive at the second part, which is almost meta-fiction, and requires the first part to achieve its ends.

Though the novel is not at all derivative, Maxwell's love for Virginia Woolf shines t
Dec 03, 2013 Ted rated it really liked it
A strange book. When I try and say what it's about, all I can think to say is that it's about a couple on vacation. But there's so much more. Maxwell captures perfectly the feelings of alienation in the traveler. There's the social disappointments, the inadvertent offense given, the anxiety about being taken advantage of. The book has its own weird sort of suspense. It's by no means a potboiler, but you read to find out what's behind the mysterious behavior of other characters and to see if the ...more
Sep 21, 2008 Tony rated it really liked it
Maxwell, William. THE CHATEAU. (1961). ****. I’ve said it before: Maxwell was one of America’s finest writers. This novel – though not his best – demonstrates how he was able to enfold the reader into a story where nothing dramatic really happens. It tells the story of Harold and Barbara, a young couple married for three years, and their trip to France on vacation in 1948. They spend most of their time in the Loire Valley, at the chateau of Mme. Viennot as paying guests. Mme. Viennot is one of t ...more
This is a rare gem of a book. It is so perfect in its depiction of traveling and falling in love with another country that, not only would I not change a word, I found section after section I wanted to absorb into my skin. Although written sixty years ago and set just after World War II, the interactions and reactions of a young American couple with the French and in France remain relevant, painful, hilarious, and true.

Its peaceful pace belies the profound transformation of its principal charac
Jul 09, 2015 John rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook, audible
I had never read any Maxwell before, nor based upon the descriptions of his other work, am I likely to do so - those themes just don't interest me. But, I decided to spend an Audible credit on this one, after listening to the sample. A good choice as it turned out.

Without rehashing the plot (too much), a young American couple tour Europe in 1948, during the rebuilding of the former war zone. For the first part of the book, they're based at a country estate of a family that takes in lodgers to ma
Jan 03, 2011 Kklingon rated it really liked it
A rich and romantic story of a young American couple visiting France shortly after WW2; not Maxwell's best but still enjoyable. As Howard and Barbara Rhodes fall in love with France and its culture, they want to BE French and relate on an easy and intimate level with everyone they meet. Of course this isn't possible, and there is much self examination and recrimination, as well as self-congratulation when they get it right. The motives of their hosts and new acquaintances are often mysterious an ...more
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
Enough! Bastante! Abbastanza! I'm not gonna try to read this anymore. Can this be the same author who wrote the pointed and precise So Long, See You Tomorrow?

I spent days and days forcing myself to keep trying with this book. It was all I could do to get through a chapter a day, sometimes not even that. I made it to page 138. It felt more like drudgery than an enjoyable reading experience, so I quit.

The book has its good moments. I stayed with it as long as I did because it was interesting to
Apr 19, 2007 Michael rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
Despite my fascination with The New Yorker, I only found out about this writer through the TLS (and had to buy it at the time from and it sounded like the perfect book to buy for an upcoming trip to France. Maxwell's gentle prose and nostalgic story grabbed me at a time when I was no longer reading many novels and I fell completely in love with it.
Dec 21, 2015 Pamela rated it really liked it
This is a story of Harold and Barbara Rhodes, an American couple who travel to France in 1948. They travel through the French countryside, which remains scarred with the remnants of destruction by war. Through their journey, they begin to realize that France is not the country which existed before the war. They arrive at the Chateau in the countryside, which is owned by Mm. Vienoty, who is forced to open her home to guests after falling under hard times. The interaction with Mm. Vienot and her g ...more
Robert Mooney
Aug 24, 2010 Robert Mooney rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
William Maxwell. Great writer.
The Chateau. Not his best.
Worth reading, nonetheless.
Harry Tomos
Oct 06, 2015 Harry Tomos rated it it was amazing
Interesting book, there is a sentence that says about one of the characters and her wanting to know every detail and it's because she was put in a box car from France to Germany during the war with her husband and never saw him again or knew what happened, so that lack of detail drover her to want to know every other detail, the interaction of the 3 Germans who stay, the mystery of the husband, the difficulty of language, the constant it's lovely now but it must have been even lovelier before th ...more
Apr 04, 2012 Kat rated it liked it
It took me forever to read this essentially plotless book, yet almost every sentence was a delicious experience--until the final section. The book relays, in day-to-day, prosaic detail, the experiences of a young, well-to-do married American couple who are making a visit to post-WWII France. The greater themes have to do with the injuries France has received from the war and the general weight and thrust of history, I suppose, but the immediate, brilliant subject matter is the bewilderment of tr ...more
Nov 14, 2009 Deidre rated it liked it
William Maxwell. The Chateau. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1961.

Although not Maxwell’s best book, I still enjoyed reading it. I bought another copy for Julie’s mom. I remembered Julie telling me that her parents flew (very unusual) to Europe after the war. I should ask her if it was before Jules was born. It must have been. Anyway, this story is about a young couple traveling to Europe when the war is still too fresh in the minds of the French people and the hardships too great not to have the Fre
Jan 25, 2012 Chrissie rated it it was ok
Recommended to Chrissie by: John
I listened to the audio version of this novel and I have no complaint with the narration. It is the content and tone of the story that didn’t work for me. Let me explain.

The story is about an American couple vacationing in Europe after the Second World War. The story focuses on the couple’s travels in France, although they also visited Italy, Switzerland and other countries. They stayed in a country manor near Blois, thus in the Loire valley with all its chateaux. And they visited Paris too. Th
Russell George
Aug 30, 2010 Russell George rated it it was ok
A strange novel really. I discovered William Maxwell by picking up a copy of his novella 'They Came Like Swallows', which I loved, but this never quite gets going. It's the story of an American couple visiting France just after the Second World War, and the various French friends that they make along the way. It's a study of the friendships that we make when travelling, and though there is a precision and clarity to the writing that I enjoyed, it felt like an idea for another novella bloated by ...more
This book was written in 1961 and it felt of a different era, not modern or contemporary. His writing is beautiful and something I never could achieve especially his plot and character development. But it felt flat, as if in a play, a play being watched with clipped diction and uni dimensional characters. I can't really describe it accurately and it should not detract from the overall read but I never emotionally connected with the characters, felt many of them very silly which perhaps was the p ...more
Russell Collins
Set in France in 1948, young American couple spend ten weeks in France. Loved the descriptions of the the Chateau, village and Paris but the plot moves slowly. The author basically ends the story in Part one then spends 40 pages in Part two trying to elaborate on explanations of unresolved questions in Part One. better to have left the reader wondering.
Mar 13, 2012 Fatma rated it really liked it
I really thought this was an excellently written book, and wonder if some of it might be autobiographical; I don't know anything about the author other than that he was an editor also, but he writes with a certain nostalgia that comes when you can tell an author is giving an account that is more personal than fictional. In any case, I made the executive decision to NOT read part 2, which I think is just unnecessary. I feel like Part 2: "Some Explanations" is something that all editors dream of p ...more
Serjeant Wildgoose
For much of this book it was enough to be carried along by the simple beauty of Williams' writing, but there were times when I questioned the labour that was required to keep at it.

I couldn't warm to the Rhodes, which is ironic given the book's focus on their absolute need to be liked. Many of the passages describing northern Brittany and post-war Paris were verging on sublime, but I struggled to give the slightest sh*t about any of the characters that populated these exquisite scenes.

A book abo
Dec 21, 2007 Marianne marked it as to-read
I'm giving this book to my mother for Christmas. I stumbled on it while looking for information about Chateau Beaumesnil, which we visited last summer. It's a charming place, known as the Versailles of Normandy, but it's not nearly as grand as Versailles, and has a rather faded elegance.
The blurb on the back of the book describes it as "a sage and luminously observed novel of Americans abroad. It is 1948, and a battered France is just beginning to receive its first American tourists since the wa
Catherine Heller
Apr 10, 2015 Catherine Heller rated it it was amazing
Americans in Paris immediately following WWII. Despite language barriers, real friendships form, dissolve and reform. What it was like to be in France so close to the Nazi occupation. Continuing my William Maxwell binge!
Jan 14, 2016 Jeanne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
While "So Long, See You Tomorrow" went by too quickly, this one was a bit slower. No less wonderfully written, but the story was a bit meandering but it fit for the content of the novel (two Americans wandering through Europe in 1948). I had a bit of a hard time keeping the French characters straight but you get such a lovely sense of who everyone is and what they are really thinking vs. how they behave outwardly.
Maxwell has an interesting way of wrapping up the story - as an imagined conversati
Richard Anderson
Jun 15, 2014 Richard Anderson rated it really liked it
This a puzzling work by the "Author's Author" Maxwell. Expert writing for the most part, but unfocused.
Jul 31, 2013 Elizabeth rated it liked it
I finished this book last week and after savoring it like the last bite of a great chocolate bar. This was the only book by William Maxwell that I had not read, and I was hesitant to read it now, knowing that it would be the end of my relationship with this remarkable man. I spread out my reading over five wonderful weeks, only reading when I could be certain not to be interupted. The story was good, the characters were fair, and the language was lovely. Maxwell's descriptions of post war Paris ...more
Jun 16, 2014 Annette rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is superb, very well written and constantly engaging in surprising ways. It's also very very funny and then becomes poignant and fascinating and deeply philosophical - all very much the sort of thing you encounter in France if you live here for any length of time. In some respects, many things remain the same in France.

So glad I discovered this writer. I'm looking forward to reading everything he's written.
Feb 28, 2016 Rosemary rated it it was ok
I was a bit disappointed. I found it a bit rambling.
Lauren Albert
Feb 15, 2010 Lauren Albert rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
A disappointment. I loved the other Maxwell books that I've read. I think he is out of his element in a long novel--clearly the short story and the novella are his forms. At 400 pages, The Chateau drags. 350 pages are spent following a young couple on their long trip to France, during which they alternate between joy at the friendly reception they receive and puzzlement at sudden coldnesses. the last 50 pages are supposed to explain the "mystery" of the French people they have met but it explain ...more
May 02, 2009 Tim rated it it was ok
"The Chateau" doesn't measure up to William Maxwell's best novels in any way. I'm a big fan of Maxwell's lean, simple, evocative, very human writing, but this book was slow and dull; it's a big disappointment for those weened on Maxwell's much better novels such as "Time Will Darken It" (one of my favorites). I confess I couldn't even make it through "The Chateau," though I got well into it, hoping it would improve. I feel bad for those whose first Maxwell is this novel; they have no idea how go ...more
Nov 21, 2015 Derek rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars
Frances Sawaya
Dec 12, 2012 Frances Sawaya rated it really liked it
Guess it's true that you can't go home again; the couple in the book is earnest in their search but are not really able (maybe because of not understanding language, customs, the horrors of the war...) to really find or even know what they really are seeking. Maxwell does such a great job of revealing characters through the elements around them, e.g. the description of what the travelers brought with them as necessities which to their hosts were absolute luxuries.
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William Keepers Maxwell Jr. was an American novelist, and fiction editor at the New Yorker. He studied at the University of Illinois and Harvard University. Maxwell wrote six highly acclaimed novels, a number of short stories and essays, children's stories, and a memoir, Ancestors (1972). His award-winning fiction, which is increasingly seen as some of the most important of the 20th Century, has r ...more
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