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De Potter's Grand Tour

2.87  ·  Rating details ·  345 ratings  ·  57 reviews
A gripping novel about a seemingly charmed marriage and a mysterious disappearance at sea.

In 1905, a tourist agent and amateur antiques collector named Armand de Potter mysteriously disappeared off the coast of Greece. His body is never recovered and his wife is left to manage his affairs on her own. But as she starts to piece together his life, she realizes that everythin
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published September 2nd 2014 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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Mr De Yes! The one of our joint ancestor (Joanna and me) as written with great care by Joanna Scott. Pictures taken here in Europe and around the world!
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Average rating 2.87  · 
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 ·  345 ratings  ·  57 reviews

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Miriam Bridenne
Jul 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
A delightful detective novel, a melancholic love story, a gripping tale of adventures written in savory and superb prose: the masterful work of a writer at the top of his game.

In 1905, the disappearance of Armand de Potter -- owner of a luxury tour company -- off the coasts of Greece in 1905 stirs up foolish rumors. Aymée de Potter, his widow, is left alone with their quite untalented son, her grief, and an unexpected amount of debts. As she digs into her husband’s affairs, she discovers he was
As an avid traveler, I was excited by the premise of world tours for wealthy Americans in the Gilded Age. However, when the travel descriptions were replaced by long itineraries punctuated by names of hotels, I lost interest. Most of the novel was highly predictable and the ending was anticlimactic. The characters felt one-sided, except Aimee, who does grow as the novel progresses. Furthermore, the writing felt clunky and the book was unnecessarily divided into too many parts. Why does a 260 pag ...more
Valorie Hallinan
Nov 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing
If you're an armchair traveler, if you love history, and if you want an unusual story, I think you might like De Potter's Grand Tour. I did! See my review at Books Can Save a Life. ...more
Elizabeth Schlatter
Oct 05, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
Enjoyed many parts of this book: the style of writing, the subject of first class international travel during the 19th-20th centuries, the theme of self-invention and self-deception, and the issue of collecting what appear to be anthropological treasures. But there was something sort of missing from the whole plot and I can't quite put my finger on it. In some sections, especially the last quarter, the story reads a bit like a chronological list, which is necessary to move quickly through time, ...more
Jaclyn Day
Oct 21, 2014 rated it it was ok
A novel-that’s-not-quite-fiction, De Potter’s Grand Tour is based on Scott’s great-grandfather, Armand de Potter. In the book, Armand and wife Aimee run a successful business leading tours of Europe for wealthy travelers. Armand, a long-time adventurer, is also a passionate collector of antiquities. Then, Armand disappears while traveling on a ship near Greece. After resigning herself to Armand’s death, Aimee begins to sort through the (not inconsequential) mysteries of their life together. Desp ...more
Sep 24, 2014 rated it it was ok
This odd little book is by one of the authors coming to the Guild Luncheon next month.. if you travel a lot you might enjoy it more than I did as DePotter runs a tourist tour company and the book drops the names of many places.. some I had heard of.. some not.. although the thread running through the story is something? that happens to DePotter.. not really a page turner for me.. I see the author had also written a Pulitzer prize nominee so I think she will be an interesting speaker.
Kati Heng
Nov 04, 2014 rated it it was ok
The novel starts off around 1902, with the happy life and marriage of Armand de Potter (or, to put it fully, Pierre Louis Armand de Potter) and his young wife, Aimée (fashioned from her maiden name, Amy). The two appear to be the finest types of Americans – educated, proper, with the penchant for traveling in luxury. Of course, Armand makes the large sum of the family’s income from these travels, on which he escorts wealthy Americans and Brits around the world, taking in the sights and “doing th ...more
Oct 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing
De Potter's Grand Tour was not what I was expecting- it was better. I was expecting a book about a man who is lost at sea. I was expecting a nice historical backdrop and a good story. I got all those things, and more.

As we learn about Armand De Potter through his eyes and his wife's, we discover that he's not the man he has cast himself to be. There are many layers to De Potter, and he is the ultimate in self-creation. He crafted his own identity when he first moved to America, and continued to
May 13, 2014 rated it liked it
The book begins in 1905, on the day that Armand de Potter, a tour guide for the wealthy and antiquities dealer, disappears. After that, the timeline is a game of hopscotch in time, alternating between the Belgian emigre de Potter and his wife, Aimee. At times the book dips into a portion of de Potter's rise, and then it slips forward to incidents that are part of his fall. Slowly, the reader pieces together that little was as it seemed in de Potter's life and that the characteristics that gave h ...more
Charles Finch
Feb 16, 2015 rated it really liked it
My review for USA Today:

De Potter's Grand Tour

By Joanna Scott

Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 272 pp.


Most readers would probably prefer to have fewer images in front of them, not more. In this odd and moving book, however, the erratically placed black-and-white photographs are the only indication of the personal connection that Scott – winner of a MacArthur grant – has to this fictionalized tale of her ancestor, Armand de Potter. De Potter, a bit of a fabulist, but a successful collector of antiqu
Every time I thought I knew what sort of novel this was, my expectations were defied. - e.g. Monsieur de Potter is a character I thought I'd pegged, yet he is revealed as much more complicated then he appears. In fact both husband and wife become more complicated the more I read (as it should be, right?) "He was an expert at giving the impression that he was never disappointed and had grown so used to affecting an impenetrable superficiality that he'd forgotten there was more to him." But he als ...more
Beth Oppenlander
Nov 30, 2016 rated it liked it
The prose of the book is like a nicely aged wine that you savor in front of the firelight. A very fast read, but also complex in idea. This is a book where I found myself soaking in the language - like a hot bath after a long day of work. It is a novel I will ponder for many days to come as I, too, embark on a professional journey to "reinvent" myself. If you like to travel in your books, this is a good read. If you are looking for something that is simple on the surface but complex as you linge ...more
Mar 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
I'm surprised by the tepid reviews here on Goodreads, as I rather liked this charming, strange little book. It's a short, quick read with no real surprises and kind of a downer ending, but I loved the vivid, captivating imaginings of turn-of-the-century travel. I'm also fascinated by antiquities collecting in this era, and Scott created a simple but pleasing story that added some personality to a solid body of research. ...more
Mar 24, 2015 rated it it was ok
Pretty much a waste of time. Written in the impersonal 3rd person it reads like a newspaper article. There is some meditation on who we are "really" but ultimately you don't care enough about the protagonists. How is it that the fluffy-headed wife manages to sell the company, the artifacts and come out on top? Amazing how little was needed to be "somebody" in Europe at the turn of the century. ...more
Sep 15, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: book-club
I found the writing clunky, the story was choppy and the ending was predictable.
Apr 21, 2018 rated it liked it
A charming light read. Armand de Potter has never been able to reconcile himself to the fact that his father was the illegitimate son of a famous hero of Belgian Independence, Louis de Potter. By moving to the US, he purchases the right to brag about his grand-father without risking contradiction from relatives. There he eventually marries a nice girl who becomes an invaluable partner in his business as a high-class tour operator. Together, Armand and Aimée take wealthy Americans all over Europe ...more
Kali Napier
Nov 24, 2017 rated it liked it
Set mainly in the first decade of the 20thC, this is a story of Armand and Aimee de Potter, an American couple who lead tours of Europe and Egypt. Until Armand disappears off the side of a boat one day and Aimee pieces together the lies that her husband has told about his life. We see excerpts of Aimee’s diary, introspection and tick-tacking back and forth through time with Armand’s perspective as he contemplates what he is about to do. I thought the inclusion of black and white photographs inge ...more
Yasmina Walker
Jul 02, 2018 rated it it was ok
Armand and Aimee De Potter own an exclusive tour company in the late 1800s. Their tours are known for being luxurious and informative. Life for Aimee is perfect. She lives in a beautiful house in Southern France. She is loved dearly by her husband and son , and she enjoys touring with her husband. Everything changes when her husband is reported to have fallen overboard on his way home from a tour. Was it a suicide or an accident? The premise of the story is intriguing, unfortunately the characte ...more
Oct 10, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction-mystery
I would have just not finished this one, but I wanted to know how it ended. Now I just wish I had jumped ahead to the end like my husband does quite frequently, I just couldn't stoop to that level. ;) A good premise for a story, and I love to travel so I thought this would be right up my alley, but the writing was only so-so. Downright boring in many places, and the ending, introducing a brand new character...AGH! Don't waste your time like! ...more
Erica Hafferkamp
Dec 11, 2017 rated it it was ok
So...meh. It felt like it took me forever to get through this one. I thought the cover was very exciting, but sadly that was about the only part of the book that was!
Julianne O'Brien
Jun 24, 2018 rated it it was ok
it was ok. it was a quick read and kept me engaged enough to see how it ended, but wouldn't say it wowed me nor could I recommend it. ...more
Rene Bahrenfuss
Mar 22, 2019 rated it it was ok
Intriguing premise. Creatively written. But in the end so
mundane and depressing.
Laronda Blessing
Jul 24, 2019 rated it liked it
A bit weird.
May 25, 2015 rated it really liked it
A little slow in places, but an interesting book-especially after reading about the "back story". That this is based on the author's great-grandparents and the journals, itineraries, and other items found in a trunk in the basement.

"In 1905, a tourist agent and amateur antiques collector named Armand de Potter mysteriously disappeared off the coast of Greece. His body is never recovered and his wife is left to manage his affairs on her own. But as she starts to piece together his life, she real
Oct 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: for-review, own
The sun had not yet set on the Gilded Age when Armand De Potter disappeared. In 1905, Europe was still, officially, at peace and the best families still considered a grand tour part of every civilised life. De Potter set up a thriving tour company. Relying on his amateur historical knowledge to provide unique itineraries, he also bought curios and antiquities along the way. He was a collector — of things, memories, histories, experiences.

So far, all of this is true.

As is the part where De Potter
Feb 05, 2016 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 17, 2015 rated it liked it
This book, set in and around 1905, tells the story of Armand de Potter, a pioneering tour guide who, in the beginning of the book, disappears off a ship off the coast of Greece. The story alternates between him telling his life story, and the reasons for decisions he has made, and his wife's perspective, as she learns he has disappeared, and considers that her marriage to him was full of secrets, lies, and alternative history. I won't spoil the ending, but it really upset me to see what a selfis ...more
May 18, 2016 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed the book-5 stars worth. BUT I wondered-was this a real story? I looked up on the internet and sure enough-the basics are real and Joanna Scott tried to create a story to make sense of the pieces she had inherited. If only she had included all that information at the beginning it would have made the book out of this world interesting. Put in a few pages of an author's note, maybe in future editions, and I think people will love the book more.

For people who read the book, or are
Jun 09, 2015 rated it liked it
This is a charming story about the great-grandparents of the author. It is promoted as a mystery but there is much of the travelogue about it as well. Obviously a labor of love, the author utilized diaries and documents as source material to stay true to the actual events. Ultimately, this resulted in a novel that is all narrative and no dialogue, which might be frustrating for some readers. I did find the book more enjoyable when, early on, I looked up the backstory on the main characters. I wi ...more
Mr De
Sep 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: louis-de-potter
This Grand Tour of uprising american businessmen, interested by other civilizations and cultures, is a guide for young generations willing to learn history as an adventure and discover that human relations are full of mysteries, building love and male/female respect one at a time! Travel opens horizons AND modern minds! But you don't need to travel as far as Mr de Potter. Your own continent is already a great start! I loved the book and recommend it for holiday reading especially ;-) ...more
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from the backcover:
Joanna Scott is an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Rochester. She has also taught in the creative writing programs at Princeton University and the University of Maryland. She was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship during the writing of Arrogance.

Librarian note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name.


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