If you’ve ever had a fantasy about running away to a hidden oasis, you should read The French House by Don Wallace. In fact, if you’ve ever looked at your life, found yourself struggling to do things you don’t really find fulfilling, and wished for a bold escape, you should read this book.
The French House is a tale of two wanderers who discover a small village on an island off the coast of Brittany while visiting a former study-abroad professor. It’s there that they discover their unlikely oasis—a ruin that will take years of loving care and money, which they often don’t have, to resurrect it.
It’s a fascinating tale of struggling writers, Don and his wife, Mindy, who often put aside their dream careers for more financially practical pursuits. But even as they struggle to survive in New York, they work to resuscitate their ruin on the island—because even as they save the house, the life that the house (and village) represents emotionally saves them.
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. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never been to the country, and you don’t speak the language, you will feel the pull. And maybe it isn’t necessarily France, but a grounded way of life full of real interaction and sustainable living (not to mention the possibility of fantastic food) that works its magic on you as you turn the page. Goodbye rat race; hello apéro!
I have to say I applauded their bravery. The couple did not have much support when they took on this project, and I think the economic turmoil they suffered over the years would have made others looking for quick sale and an escape. But they persevered, and they seem all the stronger for it.