It is 1948. Young Americans Harold and Barbara Rhodes arrive in France, filled with anticipation, their luggage complete with soap, sugar and other basics that they are told will be unavailable in a war-battered Europe. They begin their trip at Ch teau Beaumesnil and try to regard their austere surroundings as charming. However, they do not feel welcomed by Mme Vi not and her family. Instead they are bewildered by much that they encounter. What is the mystery surrounding the absence of M. Vi not? Why is Mme Vi not's nephew so friendly one day and so cold the next? And why are they not wholeheartedly welcomed as citizens of the nation that liberated Europe. In The Ch teau William Maxwell updates the Jamesian theme of the clash between the cultures of the old and the new world in a novel that possesses all the sympathy and astute sense of irony characteristic of his fiction.