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Although it may shock you, I was conceived on a drafting board. It happened on a rainy day in the office of my architect
, Monsieur Ernest Devolz, in the city of Fribourg in Switzerland.
The name I was given at birth was The Villa St. Pierre,
and I was destined to have an interesting life.
I appeared in the peaceful and prosperous year of 1912, in a chic faubourg outside the ramparts of a medieval town on Lake Neuch tel. Wealthy Parisian tourists sojourned in the hotel across from me, spending their days at their beach cabins and their evenings at the Casino-Theatre. The first automobiles passed in front of my gate on Avenue de la Gare and a Zeppelin dirigible floated silently over my rooftop. Savoring the warmth of the early summer in 1914, we were unaware that we were living in the calm before the storm of the Great War
. Suddenly, the whole world was plunged into an abyss of death and destruction. Our newly-drafted soldiers took communion in the church, their rifles at their sides and to the sound of drums and bugles, marched off to defend our borders. How could a small, neutral country like ours, surrounded by nations at war
, defend itself? Did those blaring air raid sirens mean a bomb was about to land on my roof...? Memoirs of a Mansion
brings a 110-year-old villa to life by giving it a voice of its own. The villa reveals its history through two wars, earthquakes, tornadoes and three generations of the Swiss family who built it. Abandoned and in disrepair, it is bought by an American couple who begin its restoration. The untimely death of the American husband puts his widow in a precarious position. With no income, should she sell the villa and return to the United States with her young son or continue with the restoration and invent a way to support her family? The spacious villa finds a new life as a Bed & Breakfast, an extension of an American University, a venue for Master Class opera, art classes and a TV soap opera. The villa's amusing perspective of the human condition will delight readers as it passes through the industrial and digital revolutions, ending with the Coronavirus. Memoirs of a Mansion,
in its authentic geographical setting in French-speaking Switzerland, shines a laser beam on a lesser-known area of Europe. Funny, factual and wise, Memoirs of a Mansion is a thoroughly enjoyable read.