Chantemesle is a lyrical evocation of growing up on the banks of the Seine. In this minutely observed landscape, where even the wind is a character in its own right, we meet blind Battouflet, the singing hermit of the hillside, solemn Clotilde, who lives in a chateau in the heart of the forest and a desiccated and disturbing spinster, Mlle. Firman.
Robin Fedden writes with preternatural clarity, taking the reader with him into a long-forgotten yet echoingly familiar world. When Fedden finds himself expelled from this realm by his emerging sexuality, he leaves us reeling with nostalgia for that timeless sense of the present that is the magic of childhood.
Robin Fedden was a man of many talents. A considerable amateur scholar of the Middle East, he wrote books about Syria and Egypt, yet it is for his paean to mountains and mountain climbing, The Enchanted Mountain, and for this memoir Chantemesle, that he is best remembered. Both books are being reprinted this year, and should draw new fans to his "polished, gem-like, poetical" works. By day Robin Fedden worked for the National Trust, as Secretary to the Historic Buildings Committee and as Deputy Director-General.