Shannon (Giraffe Days)'s Reviews > My Life in France

My Life in France by Julia Child
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's review
Mar 24, 10

really liked it
bookshelves: memoir, 2010, non-fiction
Read in March, 2010

After seeing the movie Julie & Julia, it was Julia Child's story that interested me. Her incredible enthusiasm and lust for life was, if not infectious, then admirable. And having spent a measly two weeks in France a few years ago, I dearly wanted to revisit - I can't afford the actual trip, but I could afford the book! I wasn't able to find a copy without the movie cover, sadly, but still.

If you've seen the movie then you're familiar with the book, only there's a lot more in the book than they put in the movie (though Nora Ephron did an excellent job on the screenplay). Between 1948 and 1954 Julia Child lived with her husband Paul, a US government diplomat, in Paris and Marseilles, were afterwards moved to Norway before returning to America when Paul retired at 60. When they first arrived in France, Julia knew nothing about cooking and couldn't even make scrambled eggs correctly. She falls so heavily in love with French food that she's motivated to learn - at Cordon Bleu, the famous chef school. From there she and two French friends start a cooking school for American women, and then helps them with their cookbook - French cooking for American housewives, the first of its kind. So begins Julia's career in cooking and cookbooks and, back in America, television.

Told with impressive detail, My Life in France resurrects this time in her life with gusto. You really feel like you're right there with her. Sadly, a lot has changed - she says it herself - but the flavour is all still there. There are some great scenes and some fascinating insights - I loved the "quiet" moments as much as the intense ones: describing a new apartment or the house they had built in the country, describing the food and how to make it (I especially loved learning about French food), and just her thought-processes. You really come to know and love Julia, who is loud, boisterous, exuberant, intelligent, thoughtful, appreciative, gracious - it helps that we have some things or opinions in common (and plenty that we don't!).

Her husband Paul's black and white photos illustrate the story, and I loved seeing Paris in the 40s and 50s. It sometimes reminded me a little of Hemmingway's Fiesta - lots of ex-pat Americans drinking and talking loudly and taking over restaurants and bars; but far less obnoxious!

It definitely leaves you feeling a tad sad - nostalgic not only for Julia and Paul's life but also for the-world-as-it-was, and France-as-it-was. There are some things we've really lost in the name of "progress". It's also a great celebration of life, and yes, I confess, I did go out and take a look at The Book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking - I am tempted to get a copy, but I'm also intimidated at the same time. And there are some French things I really refuse to eat, like foie gras, which Julia eats a lot of in the book.
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Comments (showing 1-6 of 6) (6 new)

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Trice That's what I've felt drawn to look into after the film too - read a few pages at amazon and it looked really good. just have to find a copy

Shannon (Giraffe Days) Your local bookshop or library should I have it I would think Trice; it's been very popular :)

message 3: by Trice (last edited Mar 26, 2010 07:24AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Trice I'm in the wrong country to find a lot of books in English, though some of the cafes sell used books, so there's always a chance - it's a really random selection

Shannon (Giraffe Days) Oh I'm sorry, I shouldn't have assumed... Can you order from Amazon or The Book Depository? The latter ships for free to most countries, which I like!

Trice ooo! I hadn't previously heard of Book Depository - I'll have to check it out!
amazon is actually one of the most dependable ways of shipping here, but it's also really expensive, so I try to bring a bunch of books back with me if I go to the states over the summer. The expat community tends to share a lot too, which is nice. it makes me limit what I get in the end, though, since I have a limited access time :)

Shannon (Giraffe Days) I'd be surprised if TBD didn't ship for free to China! They say 90 countries and more around the world. Lugging books around in suitcases - takes up so much of your weight allowance doesn't it! I used to have to ship boxes of books home from Japan by surface mail. $100+ each time!

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