The French House
"On a tiny French island, a couple of American dreamers redefine their lives by restoring a ruin…The French House moves to a soulful, very funny rhythm all its own."—Meryl Streep
Don and Mindy Wallace have always been Francophiles, so when they had the opportunity to buy a home on a small French island off the coast of Brittany, they jumped—sight unseen—into a crumbling mess that challenged their finances and their family.
But when the Wallaces arrived on the island they found a building in ruin, and it wasn't long before their lives resembled it. Plagued by emergency repairs, a stock market crash, and very exasperated French neighbors, Don and Mindy could have accepted their fate. Instead, they embraced it.
Redolent with the beauty and flavors of French country life, The French House is a lively, inspiring, and irresistibly charming memoir. Fans of Under the Tuscan Sun (Frances Mayes), Paris in Love (Eloisa James), and A Year in Provence (Peter Mayle) will be enchanted by this account of a family that rises from the rubble, wins the hearts of a historic village, and finally finds the home they've been seeking off the wild coast of France.
What readers are saying about The French House
"The French House is engaging and well-written and will make even non-Francophiles yearn for a trip to France."
"With hauntingly beautiful descriptions of a tiny French island and its inhabitants, this book will take you to a different place, and might even inspire you to reconsider your life and finally follow your dreams where you and your family can become whole."
"…charming and witty -- full of hope and despair about this crumbling structure they chose to inhabit and make a home."
"I was captivated from the outset and felt like I was on their island living it all with them. A great read!"
What reviewers are saying about The French House
"Don Wallace has crafted a delicious French bonbon of a book...full of humor, hope, and lessons on how to live a life full of meaning."—Dani Shapiro, bestselling author of Devotion and Still Writing
"Village life vignettes, the sensual celebration of island pleasures, eccentric neighbors, cuisine, beach life, natural history—readers will find a smattering of all that in these pages, but it's the story below, like the unshakeable foundations of the house itself, that makes this such a satisfying read."—Rain Taxi Review
"The French House is a darling book that mixes local history, memoir, quirky characters, architectural challenges (what will the village elders do if they add windows to the second floor?) and humor...It was a lovely adventure and perfect for a summer read."—Under a Gray Sky
"The French House is a detailed, delightful memoir of their journey to restore a dilapidated abode into a beckoning sanctuary in an idyllic coast French countryside.. I have thoroughly been devouring it, and I think you will too."—The Simply Luxurious Life
"Author Don Wallace shares the heartwarming story about his family's 30-year journey to restore a ruined cottage on the tiny French island of Belle Ile off the coast of Brittany... readers are privy to the charming true story of a family's journey to create the perfect home away from home."--E! News
Praise For The French House…
"On a tiny French island, a couple of American dreamers redefine their lives by restoring a ruin—which in this lovely, shimmering story becomes a parable of a saner, greener, more sustainable path that we all can follow if we will but listen to the wisdom of the villagers the way the Wallaces did. The French House moves to a soulful, very funny rhythm all its own." — Meryl Streep
"The French House is a brave, insightful and very amusing memoir about a fantasy that many of us have had but not dared to attempt. The only problem with it is that now I want to adopt myself into the Wallace family." — Jane Smiley, New York Times bestselling author and winner of the Pulitzer Prize
"In this beautifully-written, rich, moving story of a fabulous, resourceful and utterly original family, Don Wallace has crafted a delicious French bon-bon of a book. THE FRENCH HOUSE is full of humor, hope, and I dare say, lessons on how to live a life full of meaning. I loved it." — Dani Shapiro, bestselling author of Devotion and Still Writing
"Don and Mindy Wallace had always been Francophiles, so when they had the opportunity to buy a home on a small French island, they leaped sight unseen — into a crumbling mess that challenged their finances and family." — Los Angeles Times
"Abundant reflection on the nature of quiet village life is nicely juxtaposed by commentary on the eccentric neighbors and other inhabitants of the island. Although change inevitably comes to the island, for the Wallaces, their little cottage will always be home. " — Shelf Awareness for Readers
"The French House isn’t a memoir. It’s a vacation. Charming, gorgeous, perceptive, it is peppered with unforgettable characters and steeped in the deep red wine of long-term friendship, showing us how a remarkable place can make a life worth living. You will never want to leave Belle Ile or Don Wallace’s inspiring tale of holding onto a dream despite overwhelming adversity." — Jennie Fields, author of The Age of Desire
"A journalist and fiction writer’s account of how a crumbling house he bought on a French island became his family’s unexpected refuge and salvation...Warm, funny and full of heart." — Kirkus Reviews
"The only question is which you’ll fall in love with first, Don Wallace’s plucky family, or the enchanted French island on which they (re)build their dream house. Lyrical, funny, and poignant, THE FRENCH HOUSE is the next best thing to an extended vacation by the sea." — Kevin Baker, bestselling author of The Big Crowd
"Author Don Wallace shares the heartwarming story about his family’s 30-year journey to restore a ruined cottage on the tiny French island of Belle Ile off the coast of Brittany... readers are privy to the charming true story of a family’s journey to create the perfect home away from home." — E! News
"Wallace’s ability to articulate the honest struggle that most people face while trying to find their place in life combined with his breathtaking descriptions of the French isle’s landscape make this a perfect summer read." — Bella Magazine
"Looking for your perfect read for the summer? I’ve found it. Don Wallace’s The French House was my best read in a long time. I felt like I was peering over his shoulder as he takes the reader on the 30 year journey that is his family’s maison in Kerbordardoue France." — Tales of a Ranting Ginger
"I just loved it and recommend it to anyone who likes memoirs, expat tales, being transported to faraway lands through words, property renovation stories, or simply good, solid writing." — Bleeding Espresso
"Engaging and well-written and will make even non-Francophiles yearn for a trip to France." — Bleeding Espresso
"The French House succeeds on many levels. As a book, the prose is extraordinary. It brings this little French island to life as we learn to live with the strange customs and rhythms of the Bellilous (called townies elsewhere). But it also touches us in our own inner dream landscape, that ‘what if I just stayed here’ we’ve all experienced when we’ve visited a treasured place." — Be Nice or Leave
"Yes, this is a fairy tale, but it wasn't make belief - it happened in the real world." — Bookshipper
"Wallace skillfully brings to life the villagers in a way that is somewhat reminiscent of Garrison Keillor and his Lake Wobegon...This is not a book to rush through--it is a book to savor. " — West Metro Mommy Reads
"Funny touching and tremendous fun." — Cayocosta72
"You’ve never been any place as beguiling as Don Wallace’s Belle Ile. He’s a funny, literate raconteur with a story full of fine twists, soulful turns, and fantastic neighbors." — William Finnegan, author of Cold New World
"I, for one, found myself happy to read a story of persistence & commitment from a small family. They dramatically changed their life forever with a single decision and the tenacity to see their plans through to fruition. The French House is a great read for those of you, like me, who have ever considered moving abroad and living La Dolce Vita. " — Life in a Venti Cup
"It reminded me a bit like Under the Tuscan Sun. This family has a wreck of a house that they are going to rebuild. I mean they have to it was meant to be, they knew that this was what they were suppose to do. However they also need to rebuild themselves a bit. This maison, this village and the lovely french country side are just what they need!" — Gidget’s Bookshelf
"I love armchair travelling, and this story provided that in exquisite form - through Don Wallace's words, you don't just get to picture the setting of Kebordardoue, but you also get to know all the lively and somewhat eccentric characters that people this village. " — Zee Monodee
"The French House is a detailed, delightful memoir of their journey to restore a dilapidated abode into a beckoning sanctuary in an idyllic coast French countryside. Written in such a way that you can enjoy it on your own summer getaway, put it down and come back to it at your leisure without missing a beat, I have thoroughly been devouring it, and I think you will too." — The Simply Luxurious Life
"I love a book that allows for a great deal of armchair traveling. This book definitely fits into that category...Wallace was able to find a very humorous way to talk about some of their travails. That sense of humor kept me wanting to turn the pages!" — A Bookish Affair
"I loved this book. It was charming and witty -- full of hope and despair about this crumbling structure they chose to inhabit and make a home. .I think we all dream about having a second home -- to live in a faraway paradise and to become a "native." The beautiful thing about the Wallaces -- is over the course of 30 years -- they made their dream come true. " — Gerbera Daisy Diaries
"The French House is a darling book that mixes local history, memoir, quirky characters, architectural challenges (what will the village elders do if they add windows to the second floor?) and humor...It was a lovely adventure and perfect for a summer read." — Under a Gray Sky
"Want to visit France? If like me you want to visit, but it’s not in your budget, picking up a copy of Don Wallace’s The French House will temporarily scratch your itch. Filled with memories, anecdotes and his love for the villagers he has come to know, Mr. Wallace’s book gives us insight into the Gallic approach to life. An approach I find very appealing. " — Queen of All She Reads
"Village life vignettes, the sensual celebration of island pleasures, eccentric neighbors, cuisine, beach life, natural history—readers will find a smattering of all that in these pages, but it’s the story below, like the unshakeable foundations of the house itself, that makes this such a satisfying read." — Rain Taxi Review
"If you’ve ever had a fantasy about running away to a hidden oasis, you should read The French House...Readers are treated to delightful details of the manners and customs of village life, and you should not be surprised if you immediately start asking yourself if it’s still possible to find a ruin of your own in France." — Dating in LA and Other Urban Myths
"I enjoyed this book reading the author's story made me feel as if I was on the "journey" with him and his wife. I would love to be able to do what they did. " — Griperang’s Bookmarks
"I was impressed by the fortitude of the author, the dedication among the difficulties, and their gradual immersion into the society on the island. Each interaction detailed was fascinating, from the woman who encourages them to buy the place and stays a fixture in their lives for years, to the children to whom they teach baseball. I felt immersed along with them, albeit from the comfort of my own sofa." — Musings of a Writer
" With hauntingly beautiful descriptions of a tiny French island and its inhabitants, this book will take you to a different place, and might even inspire you to reconsider your life and finally follow your dreams where you and your family can become whole." — Words and Peace
"For anyone who has hankered after living abroad, The French House is an absolute must-read...prescribed summer reading for anyone with an interest in American–French relations, the book makes for both worthwhile and pleasurable reading—don’t miss it! " — Book Pleasures
"This charming tale of a couple of American writers who, looking for a life change, bravely buy a place on a tiny island off the coast of France is so funny and alive with detail that you are mentally transported there. It is the perfect summer read while on vacation or if you can’t get away this story will take you away!" — Lipstick & Leopard Print
"The French House: An American Family, a Ruined Maison, and the Village that Restored Them All," by Don Wallace (Sourcebooks, $14.99): The real-life story of a New York writer and his wife, who now live in Hawaii, who spent decades restoring a dilapidated cottage on a French island. The project involved interactions with colorful island residents and became a journey of self-discovery" — Honolulu Star Advertiser
Sourcebooks, 9781402293313, 336pp.
Publication Date: June 3, 2014
About the Author
Don Wallace was born in Long Beach, California and has spent most of his life as a journalist and editor in New York City and Honolulu—that is, when not in France. He is the author of four books including the novel Hot Water and One Great Game: Two Teams, Two Dreams, in the First-Ever High School Football National Championship Game. His essays, articles and fiction have appeared in such various publications as Harper’s, The New York Times, SELF, Fast Company, Wine Spectator and Naval History. You can visit DonWallaceFranceBlog.tumblr.com for updates on Belle Ile-en-Mer.