The University of Wisconsin Press

Travel / Memoir


A Castle in the Backyard
The Dream of a House in France
Betsy Draine and Michael Hinden
With a new afterword

"A charming account of village life in the Dordogne valley."
ForeWord magazine

Winner of August Derleth Book-Length Nonfiction Award from the Council for Wisconsin Writers

A Castle in the Backyard chronicles the French adventures of American couple Betsy Draine and Michael Hinden, who in 1985 embarked upon a dream. After falling in love with a small stone house set beneath a medieval castle in Périgord, they bought the tranquil getaway located in one of the most beautiful river valleys in Europe.

In this delightful memoir Betsy and Michael offer an intimate glimpse of a region little known to Americans—the Dordogne valley, its castles and prehistoric art, its walking trails and earthy cuisine, its people and traditions—and describe the charms and mishaps of setting up housekeeping thousands of miles from home. Insightful and poignant, this memoir chronicles the transformation of Périgord as development poses a challenge to its graceful way of life, and evokes the personal exuberance of starting over, even in mid-life.

"A charming account of the ins and outs of house-buying thousands of miles from home."—Communique

"A charming account of village life in the Dordogne valley."—Foreword magazine

"Charming, well-written, and droll. A Castle in the Backyard is a must read for every Francophile."—Harriet Welty Rochefort, author of French Toast and French Fried

"A delightful read from beginning to end . . . The charms and challenges of summers in a changing medieval village come to life on every page."—Nancy Stohs, food editor of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

"The authors' recollections of their summers in the Périgord and, especially, their charming little house will delight any fan of the I-bought-a-house-abroad memoir . . . every one of their anecdotes is delightfully worth telling. Each detail of their account is a delicious morsel akin to the hearty fare served in every Périgord home and inn."—Brad Hooper, Booklist

Betsy Draine and Michael Hinden are professors emeritus of English at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. In addition to their scholarly writing, they have translated and edited The Walnut Cookbook by Jean-Luc Toussaint.

Media & bookseller inquiries regarding review copies, events, and interviews can be directed to the publicity department at or (608) 263-0734. (If you want to examine a book for possible course use, please see our Course Books page. If you want to examine a book for possible rights licensing, please see Rights & Permissions.)

cover of the Draine and Hinden book is a photo illustration of a castle town in France.

March 2006
LC: 2002001362 DC
322 pp.    5 x 8
1 map

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Paper $19.95 t
ISBN 978-0-299-17944-1
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"The perfect read for dreamers, do-it-yourselfers, and travelers actual or armchair."
The Capital Times

"A wonderful memoir . . . highly recommended reading as a richly textured remembrance of a home and a land steeped in centuries of tradition and lore."
The Midwest Book Review

"Wonderful detail . . . Charming memoir . . . Highly recommended for travel collections in all public libraries."
—Mari Flynn, Library Journal

"Filled with delightful anecdotes and writing, A Castle in the Backyard is an excellent addition to Francophile literature."
The Telluride Watch

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Updated December 8, 2011

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