Dreaming of Building Your Castle in France? Author Gerald Doucet offers advice. 

Dreaming of Building Your Castle in France? Author Gerald Doucet offers advice. 

French author Gerald Doucet offers much serious and hilarious advice in his book Building Your Castle and Living Like a King in France. Admittedly, it is dated now (1995), but much of the advice is still very current in his memoir of collective castle-building in Paris, France, from 1983 to 1994.

‘With a few tips you too can flourish in French society without really crying,’ asserts Frenchman Gerald Doucet. 

A collective of eight families – called the Montmartre Eight (M-8) – build and live in a castle in Paris. At the time of writing, the M-8 have been together for 10 years, going through various stages of cooperation and conflict, but with a ‘surprising cohesion’ between them.

The M-8 are all involved right from the start, with developing the blueprint with an architect (the first one quit !) and all the headaches that go along with the construction process. Finally, they all move in, in various stages, only to face new challenges, such as noise, disputes, growing children, gossip, affairs, and divorce. 

It should be noted that the M-8, of course, do not actually live in Montmartre. While the situation is real, the castle location and the individual families remain undisclosed.

Not one of the M-8; this is the blog author Martina Nicolls visiting a French castle


Gerald Doucet begins with the ‘leaders of the pack’ – the individuals who make the majority of the decisions regarding the management of the ‘build.’ Each family lives in apartment spaces ranging from 150-180 square metres (1,600-1,900 square feet) within the castle on an adequate block of land.  By 1988, five years from the start, the castle

‘had life, the smell of good food, the laughter of children, and one very large mud hole that we set about to groom with trees and grass.’  

This book is not only about advice on building a castle and dealing with architects, construction workers, and government regulations, but it also includes how to greet each other, whom to kiss and when to shake hands, buying food at the market, how to invite the French to dinner, what to serve, where to school your children, and where to go on vacation.   

It is well-written, fast-paced, authentic, and hilariously funny.  

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