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The House in France: A Memoir
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The House in France: A Memoir

3.4  ·  Rating details ·  338 Ratings  ·  64 Reviews
Set in Provence, London, and New York, this is a daughter’s brilliant and witty memoir of her mother and stepfather—Dee Wells, the glamorous and rebellious American journalist, and A. J. Ayer, the celebrated and worldly Oxford philosopher—and the life they lived at the center of absolutely everything.

Gully Wells takes us into the heart of London’s lively, liberated intelle
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published June 21st 2011 by Knopf (first published January 1st 2011)
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Peter Foges
Jul 06, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I absolutely adored this witty, worldly memoir about bad people having a good time in the wacky 1960s. Sex, adultery, illegitimacy, food, wine, celebrity (lots and lots), drugs and just the right dose of the divine South of France in the summer heat. It doesn't depend on knowing who all these comic characters are (or were), since the effect is like that of a brilliantly composed picaresque novel. It even made me laugh out loud (rare I find in books these days, especially memoirs) -- and though t ...more
Aug 16, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: i-gave-up
my parents fucked a lot of famous people. good for you, gully.
Beth Bonini
Jun 28, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: memoir, mothers, family
Gully Wells - a features editor at Conde Nast Traveler magazine, and the product of Oxford and a highly privileged, well-connected upbringing - writes well, with humour and a vivid voice. The subject of this memoir is ostensibly her mother Dee Wells, but it ends up being a series of colourful 'snapshots' which never quite add up to a satisfying and whole portrait - neither of herself nor her mother. From the beginning, the author describes her journey back to the family's summer house in France ...more
Laurel Kane
May 24, 2011 marked it as to-read
Recommended to Laurel by: June 2011 Vogue
Shelves: biography-memoir
The excerpt in this month's Vogue is fantastic
Jul 02, 2011 rated it it was ok

I wanted to like this book a lot. It's essentially a memoir of Gully Wells, growing up in London, the daughter of Dee Wells, an American writer in the 60's and 70's. Dee Wells was flamboyant, funny, smart and, in the end, kind of mysterious. Gully Wells's stepfather was the philosopher, A.J. Ayer.

The memoir is entirely affectionate. Dee Wells and Ayer had many affairs. Their lives revolved around a glittering set of writers, politicians, academics, etc. .

Why did this book irritate me? Everyone
Sep 19, 2013 rated it it was ok
I picked up this book at a knock-down book table at my lovely local bookstore; I was heading north for a kayak trip and needed something to read in case it rained for five days. (Mercifully it didn't and the trip was great or I'd have been mightily irked by the time I got home.)

Lots of famous people, glamour, and never-ending parties but finally a very depressing read. It's an apology for unforgivable behaviour from both her mother and her stepfather - the former rude, vengeful and neglectful, t
Audrey ❦❦❦
Oct 04, 2011 rated it did not like it
This book was a monumental waste of a perfectly good afternoon. Gully Wells is a pretentious, name-dropping quasi-author who would be better off leaving the writing for those who can. The title of the book is very misleading. It is not a book for Francophiles and the house is barely mentioned. It's more about "Look at my fabulously wealthy and hedonistic lifestyle."

A word of advice if you are thinking of reading this: Don't bother.

P.S. A troll by the name of Peter Foges may be commenting shortly
Feb 04, 2012 rated it did not like it
Didn;t enjoy it... read to about page 100. Like reading a long monologue of a boring family member going on and on and on about other family, dinner parties, etc.
Lucy Wightman
Apr 05, 2013 rated it did not like it
Shelves: fiction
I am gullible, Ask anyone who knows me. I can sit through virtually any movie, because I can believe the story, even if it's bad. This, I have determined, is for the same reasons I can take good photographs - if it is in front of me, I can notice something good and curious about it. Words are not enough to give me that primitive "in-front-of-me" feel. To be captivated means I cannot be annoyed on a regular basis.

This book annoyed me in so many ways I could not finish it. When I was younger, I wo
Jul 13, 2011 rated it liked it
Mainly a memoir of journalist Gully Wells and her family (and their famous friends) and how a house in Provence wove its way through their lives. A self indulgent life of sexual liaisons, drinking and cigarettes made this seem like a European version of Kenya's Happy Valley colony.

Maybe I would have enjoyed this more had I been familiar with Dee Wells and J.J. Ayer. My ignorance of their fame left me rather floundering in much of the book. Sometimes it seemed like Wells was namedropping her fami
Oct 30, 2011 rated it did not like it
A friend of mine (a lady of a certain age)recommended this book to me. While I thought it was well written, with sparks of humor and a savoring love of food and frivality, at times it was as though "you had to be there" to really understand the cultural landscape of that time. This isn't another francophile book, but rather a memoir of Gully Wells and her unusual family who lived primarily in England as well as the United States. I give it a lukewarm, at best, thumbs up.
Alexander Van Leadam
Dec 21, 2015 rated it did not like it
Pacey but otherwise boring and forgettable upper-class chick lit and ego-trip in one. Too superficial and cheery for an account of a lightly troubled childhood, adolescence and early womanhood. The author is more interested in who passes through her life, especially if famous, providing the reader with nothing that makes them and her really interesting. She's just too fabulous to notice. The book contains enough name-dropping to last the average reader for months.
Jul 01, 2011 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
Story about a bunch of people with loose morals, but a great "period piece" and so well-written you can't help yourself.
Aug 30, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
BORING! Didn't quite finish it because I was so tired of reading it....
Jan 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I hadbegun this book on CD earlier this year, but had to return it before finishing. I took it with me to Puerto Rico, thinking I would find the spot where I left off and go from there. I ended up re-reading the entire book. Wells is that good a writer and the story is so interesting. Her life and that of her mother is so different from mine. Unlike a lot of memoir, this doesn't rely on terrible family drama to entertain.It was just fascinating to get a glimpse into a differentworld than mine.
Brooke Everett
Aug 04, 2011 rated it liked it
With a dizzying cast of characters from academia, politics, fashion, and the arts, this is a beautiful, globe-trotting love letter to the author's brash and unconventional mother and brilliant, "Aspergian" stepfather.

And what a world Dee Wells created for herself and Gully! Gully's "normal world" included summers in the south of France, visits to a friend's family's castle north of Rome (Rocca Sinibalda), visits to the same friend's family's house in Ibiza, a summer in Paris before beginning her
LAPL Reads
Jan 29, 2014 rated it really liked it
In this sparkling, joyful family memoir, Gully Wells has created an homage to her mother, the irrepressible Dee Wells, not exactly a rock of stability, but who did create a vacation house that would become a solid lodestone in the lives of her children, grandchildren, husband, lovers and friends. She bought a ramshackle farmhouse that was clinging to a hillside in southern France and made it into a vacation home that became a summer retreat, and respite for some, from a busy life in England.

Debbie Ellis
Aug 15, 2011 rated it really liked it
Started this book about a week ago (8/7/11). The author has an extensive vocubulary which I always enjoy and has written this non-fictional account of her life as it relates to living in England and France at her Mother's maison secondaire. I am about 1/3 through.

Gully appears to have grown yp to be a wonderful Mother and Wife based on her eternal optimism. I don't think that other children would have shared her views as being a happy child. I think it was this outlook on her family life and adu
Susan Ovans
Mar 20, 2013 rated it liked it
Considered abandoning this book about halfway through and am glad I didn't. For a good portion of its 300+ pages, I really disliked all the people in this memoir, including the author, Gully Wells. They all came off as brilliant but self-absorbed. No matter how many adjectives Wells used to try to infuse some charm into her family members, friends, and lovers, it didn't wash. They mostly seemed pretty awful. And the ones who weren't awful were kind of sad. But the last third of the book was actu ...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: bio, non-fiction
I started a book jar this year and this was my first book pulled from it. Gully Wells was raised by a mother who loved life, loved men, and lived life to the fullest. Her mother, Dee, was a journalist and her step-father, Freddie, a playboy Oxford philosopher raise her surrounded by an amazing group of people, Iris Murdoch, Bertrand Russell, and Christopher Hitchens are just a few.

This memiors heart is the families french summer home La Migoua. The characters that fill her life follow them here
May 26, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir
This is not the sweet story I’ve come to expect of taking on a rehab in France or Italy and falling for the simple life. Granted there’s a bit of that. Mostly this is the story of a very high-profile, dysfunctional family that knows, dines and vacations with some very well known people. There’s plenty to entertain foodies, Francophiles, Anglophiles, and literati, with some tantalizing bad behavior if that’s your thing. At times I found the name dropping annoying, but mostly I enjoyed the writing ...more
Aug 26, 2011 rated it liked it
I'd probably give the first half of this memoir five stars. It's a delicious description of her nutty parents -- a stuffy, set-in-his-ways-yet-fabulously-slutty British professor and a scream-y, dramatic American woman -- and the ramshackle French house they inhabit. Many other authors would look back at this dysfunctional union with sorrow and self-pity, but Ms. Wells thought it was rollicking good fun, so props to her! Unfortunately, the second half, where the author grows up, goes off on her ...more
Nov 06, 2011 rated it really liked it
Having just finished Alexandra Fuller's two memoirs, I was almost memoired out, but this grabbed me in the end. Another crazy, angry, charming, combative mother, plus the typical connections you seem to get in a small country (Martin Amis, Bertrand Russell, Iris Murdoch and the ubiquitous Christopher Hitchens are just a few who make an appearance). Another unconventional upbringing, with several father figures in her life and her mother's odd, awful neglect of her younger brother, and then her m ...more
Mar 15, 2013 rated it liked it
First off, this isn't about fixing up a house in France which I admit was the reason I chose it. Second, it is very well written but intensely detailed, to me, to the point of frustration with some of the "characters" I didn't know who anyone was but I did enjoy learning about them. I did think the authors intense love for her extremely adulterous step father was odd, no matter how wonderful he may have been he was a dirty old man to the extreme. No thanks, deal breaker for me. I did finish the ...more
Jan 11, 2012 rated it liked it
Ms. Wells was writing of an era I knew well. I knew (not personally) the cast of characters. I had no idea her mother had been Dee Wells. I never connected the dots. Having bought Dee's book Jane> while I was in London, I re-read it for years and loved the satire on British life and manners. Parts of this book were tragic, from one who knows. The life time of damage a child carries throughout their life from the indifference or cruelness of a parent. It reads like a true memoir and loving, ho ...more
Kim Sheehan
Jul 11, 2011 rated it liked it
My problem with most memoirs is that, frankly, people get pretty dull once they turn say 30 or so. They recognize the foibles of their youth, they can critically examine the oddness of their parents, and they basically settle down and have a life.

Unfortunately, most memoirs hit this point about halfway through and I lose interest. And such it is with this well written yet overly name dropping (of people I don't know) memoir.
Jul 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Will anyone else think it is amazing.... probably not. It joined the girlhood fantasy of having different parents ( maybe like Gully's) and a house in the family since 1963 that has pulled everyone together since then. I just kept thinking that the house was and is a chief part of their lives. Good for a family like us.

BUt the people in GUlly's life a way different than mine and it was very interesting for me to be in a hi-class, swinging academic, writer lifestyle.
Jun 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing
The writing skills of this author make me want to study how to write great creative nonfiction. She did an excellent job of telling her stories. This is a light read by a fascinating story teller. The book is mostly interesting because of the writer's talent rather than because of cohesive plots or themes.
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Gully Wells was born in Paris, brought up in London, educated at Oxford, and moved to New York in 1979. She is a features editor at Condé Nast Traveler magazine. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and children.
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