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An Age of License: A Travelogue

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Midnight picnics at the Eiffel Tower; wine tastings paired with blowgun lessons; and romance in cafés, cemeteries, and at the Brandenberg Gate--these are just some of New York Times best-selling cartoonist Lucy Knisley's experiences on her 2011 European book tour. An Age of License is both a graphic travelogue and a journal of her trip abroad. Fans of Knisley's food-focused autobiography (French Milk, Relish) savor her mouth-watering drawings and descriptions of culinary delights, seasons with cute cat cameos. But An Age of License is not all kittens and raclette crepes: Knisley's account of her adventures is colored by anxieties about her life and career, depicted with fearlessness, relatability, and honesty, making An Age of License an Eat, Pray, Love for the Girls generation.

195 pages, Paperback

First published September 22, 2014

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About the author

Lucy Knisley

62 books2,007 followers
Beginning with an love for Archie comics and Calvin and Hobbes, Lucy Knisley (pronounced "nigh-zlee") has always thought of cartooning as the only profession she is suited for. A New York City kid raised by a family of foodies, Lucy is a graduate of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago currently pursuing an MFA at the Center for Cartoon Studies. While completing her BFA at the School of the Art Institute, she was comics editor for the award-winning student publication F News Magazine.

Lucy currently resides in New York City where she makes comics. She likes books, sewing, bicycles, food you can eat with a spoon, manatees, nice pens, costumes, baking and Oscar Wilde. She occasionally has been known to wear amazing hats.

She can be reached via e-mail at lucylou@gmail.com.

(copied from http://www.lucyknisley.com/about on 12/31/08)

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 808 reviews
Profile Image for Ariel.
301 reviews64.2k followers
October 5, 2015

The author of this "travelogue" is an illustrator, and during a big trip to Europe she catalogued and journaled her trip through beautiful illustrations, doodles, typography, and captions. She's honest with her experiences - shares what's fun and what wasn't - and is open with what is going on her life at the moment of the trip and how the trip effects the other aspects of her life, especially some epiphanies going on in her mind. We learn about the people in her life, her relationships, her work, and her thoughts (sometimes very insightful, sometimes very funny) on travel.

The title is incredible important - "the age of licence" is, at least the book explains it to be, the time in a persons life when they're a little bit lost and have the ability to go on aimless adventures and learn about their hopes and dreams and goals.

I really loved this, and absolutely want to read more stuff by Lucy Knisley. It's inspired me to want to be a bit more creative in journaling trips!
Profile Image for Idarah.
464 reviews48 followers
June 13, 2022
"The French have a saying for the time when you're young and experimenting with your lives and careers. They call it: L' Age License...as in license to experience, mess up, license to fail, license to do...whatever, before you're settled."

I feel like Knisley and I are on personal terms, so I'll just call her "dear Lulu." At this point, I think I would buy just about any graphic novels she publishes from here on out. I have everything she's written thus far, and I guess that makes me a bonafide fan.

In An Age of License: A Travelogue, dear Lulu is at it again, and what she does best is capture her traveling adventures. In the style of French Milk, she documents a month long trip to Norway, Sweden, Germany, France, and Iceland. Along the way, she contemplates where her life is headed, is coping with a recent break-up and new love interest, and trying to figure out if she loves her career as a comic artist despite its meager compensation.

I love Lulu's illustrations, and I just love the way she thinks. She includes linear notes on footnotes, if that's even possible in comic form. Above all else, she is a true foodie, so she always allows panel space to highlight favorite dishes or must have snacks. I think I'm going to reread this tonight. I might have missed something.
Profile Image for Julie Ehlers.
1,111 reviews1,398 followers
September 14, 2014
This was disappointing--it felt thrown together, and it was kind of dull and self-absorbed. Also, I didn't realize going on a business trip and then hanging out with your mom in France constituted an "age of license." I'm going to go so far as to say that Lucy Knisley has tapped out the whole "mid-twenties angst" thing. She needs to live a little more before she attempts yet another memoir--or maybe she just needs to stop skimming over the surface of everything in her books, I'm not sure. The watercolors were beautiful, though!
Profile Image for Erica.
1,333 reviews436 followers
February 25, 2022
This story was OK and this review is a compilation of the feelings I had while and after I read the book and is not a critique on the merits of the art or literary style used to convey said story.

So I was expecting something totally different. I think there came between us, me and this book, the gap separating my generation from the one that follows me.
Yes, I'm blaming all the millennial hipsters for my inability to love this story.

I wanted more travel, more Experience + Just The Right Moment = Discovery = Newfound Wisdom/Epiphany. And you might say, "But that was there in spades" and it was just ... ok, it wasn't the moments, her surroundings, the amazingness of finding new things in cultures that aren't your own that led to said epiphanies. Instead, it seemed Lucy, who is adorable in her illustrations, was in her head for 80% of her trip through Scandinavia and Germany and France (was it Germany where her friends were honeymooning? See, I don't even remember where she went because she was always in her head)
The back of the book talks about her mouth-watering drawings, in reference to her book Relish: My Life in the Kitchen, and implies that people who loved those hunger-making illustrations will love the ones in this book, too.
My mouth never watered, not once. Not from the drawings of food nor from the brief descriptions. I didn't feel like I was there with her, I didn't feel I was seeing or learning anything new about the neighborhoods through which she traveled. I felt like I had to hear a lot about how she's never going to find real love even though she adores this guy she's seeing abroad but not enough to be able to get over her ex or about how people don't think what she does is hard and maybe she doesn't really have a real job but it feels like a real job with all the work she puts in so maybe "Jen" should just STFU, already, and stop judging her.
I felt the people she didn't like were drawn in a way that you could tell she didn't like them. She didn't make them ugly, or anything, she just always made them irritated-looking. There's nothing wrong with that but, to me, it seemed a tad spiteful. And this is her traveloguememoir, so she can be as spiteful as she wants. I don't have to enjoy it, though.

I think people who know Lucy or someone like Lucy or feel like they are Lucy will love this. It's nice and personal, she has all these thoughts about herself and her art and her work and her love life and her mother's friends while she travels as most of us will never travel. I think that was why this book was only OK to me. I'm not her friend, I don't know her, I didn't really care about her internal monologues. I wanted to know what kind of impact the ancient towns, the cheese-y foods (as in, foods full of cheese), the wine, the people, the landscapes had on her, not how these things opened a door for more reflection on herself, her art, her work, her love life, and her mother's friends.
Profile Image for Dave Schaafsma.
Author 6 books31.3k followers
April 24, 2016
I have been reading Michael DeForge and some other alt-comics, so this in comparison feels more conventional, more welcoming, lovely, watercolored, light and breezy, very attractive. I just kept reading, because Lucy is a nice and sweet person. . . or, the persona she creates in her comics is that, anyway. There is very little insight in this comic, but I am imagining twenty-something white women just LOVING this as much as her French Milk.

In this travelogue, she goes to a comics conference, she travels with her mom, but the chief concern is a new love interest which we know was really fun for her but probably will not last. She's in her mid twenties and this is a time of fluidity and "license" before life gets more serious with responsibilities. . . a phase, she recognizes. A phase for young white women of a certain class. A little privileged, or sheltered in some ways. She makes comics; I don't mean to suggest she is rich.

But you know, even after I just now kinda trashed it and feel in some ways I can't quite defend it as a story--it says pretty much nothing, and is mostly just a kind trivial and light travelogue (oh, I got this orange drink! Cool cheeses! Wine! She said something annoying to me!) I kinda still liked it, found it breezy and refreshing, as I do each and every one of her stories, for some reason. If you saw it, too, you would pick it up, the cover is lovely, and the same goes for the art throughout. There, I contradict myself! I try to be deep and I'm just a shallow middle class hypocrite! I liked it, I admit it!
Profile Image for Negin.
613 reviews151 followers
November 11, 2018
This book, the third one that I have read by Lucy Knisley, focuses on her twenties and all the angst and worrying about one’s path that often come with it. Someone described it as a sort of “Eat, Pray, Love” for that generation. I was hoping that this would be more of a travelogue than a memoir, but it wasn’t. Her illustrations are charming and the overall style is delightful. There are a few more books in the series. I’m not sure if I will continue reading them.

Profile Image for Ashley.
2,661 reviews1,693 followers
February 3, 2016
Lucy Knisley is a delightful, talented human being, and I will read every book she chooses to publish.

This particular book is a record of her travels to Europe over the summer of 2011. She was invited to speak at a Norwegian comics convention in Bergen, and used the opportunity to travel to Sweden to visit a man she'd met several weeks before when he was vacationing in New York City. She also travels to France (Paris, and another city of which I've since forgotten the name), visiting a friend who works in a Parisian winery, and where she meets her mother and her mother's friends, who are vacationing there for a month. Still reeling from a break-up that happened over a year before, and as a freelance artist with youth and freedom on her side, she travels over Europe eating delicious food, having a passionate love affair, just because she can.

Having now read all three travelogues that she has published, it's clear that An Age of License is where she really nails down the format. Her experiences are split up into chapters covering each city she visits, and are bookended by watercolors she created while on the trip. In several points, she records herself making those paintings in the text itself. The travelogue is a great format for her, because it allows her not only to record the events of her travels, but to process them emotionally as well. The drawings are always accompanied by honest (sometimes painfully so) blurbs of text that give us insight into her state of mind, and how she is experiencing all the things she is seeing.

She also does a great job bringing all the random pieces of the trip into a cohesive whole. Thoughts on her identity, her work, lost loves, new loves all fall neatly under the umbrella of a term she hears in Paris from an American ex-pat living there. Although she has been able to find no one who recognizes the term, he tells her that what she's doing now the French call living in the 'age of license,' which means essentially that you have license to take chances and make mistakes, seeing the world and all it holds so that you can decide what and who you would like to be. (Lucy ultimately concludes he made this up, but nonetheless likes the term enough to use it herself.)

So much of the topics she covers could come off as vain or self-serving, but her style is so forthcoming and raw that it ends up being endlessly fascinating, like a peak inside someone else's mind and feelings.

If you're at all into graphic memoirs, definitely pick this up (and all her other books, too).
Profile Image for Chad.
7,746 reviews869 followers
March 27, 2020
A light and breezy illustrated travelogue of a young woman's month long trip to Europe. It does deal lightly with some of the uncertainty of being a twenty-something, that "Am I doing the right thing with my life?" feeling. However, most of it is about a short term affair and food she tried. There's not much substance to it. I did enjoy Knisley's art though.
Profile Image for Ferdy.
944 reviews1,110 followers
September 20, 2015
An easy, breezy read about Lucy Knisley's travels in Europe. Didn't much enjoy the comics fest part in Norway, as it wasn't very interesting. Found the rest of Lucy's European trip quite fun to read though, especially her exploring the places she visited and spending time with her friends and family.
Really liked the artwork, the illustrations were clean and simple.
Profile Image for Kristina Horner.
157 reviews1,812 followers
February 7, 2017
This was cute! It was way more of a journal and way less of an actual "story", but it was fun to read about Lucy's trip. She is a likable person so I enjoyed it overall, but expected a little more from it I guess?
Profile Image for Kelly.
Author 7 books1,212 followers
August 26, 2014
This is what "new adult" looks like in graphic format.

On the surface, Knisley's book is a travelogue. She's been invited to a comics conference as a speaker in Norway, and she uses it as an opportunity to meet up with a boy she's been in a relationship with who is from Sweden. They travel to Germany and then to France, where she does a bit of meeting with her friends and family, before she meets back up with Henrik in Paris. But once you get past the surface, this is a really great book about settling down and planning your life vs. letting things shake out and taking risks.

While in France, Knisley hears the phrase "Age of License," and it sticks with her. The person who used it claimed it was a well-known French idea about using time as a young adult to explore and try and experiment and take risks and fail. But as she travels and asks about the phrase, Lucy can't find other people who've heard of it or know what it means.

Whether or not it's real doesn't matter. This is Lucy coming to terms with wanting to experiment and throw caution to the wind and yet wanting a solid career with financial stability, a relationship she can depend on, and a path that makes sense and can be plotted on a path. There's a romance here, and this age of license theme permeates it, with a conclusion about how this relationship works out in her final acknowledgements (which I appreciated: she purposefully doesn't tell us at the end of the book, but we do get it in her notes. This is consistent with something she comments on about drawing stories about her personal life and how she renders those people in her life).

The biggest takeaway about being able to both take risks AND make commitments and set goals and plans is what I've come to accept with myself, and I appreciated it so much.

Definitely a book with good appeal for 20somethings. Fantagraphics called it EAT PRAY LOVE for the GIRLS generation on the cover flap, which makes me cringe because it fails to take privilege into account (Lucy isn't rich and she is open about the financials of this trip)....but in terms of the idea of the book, it's not inaccurate.
Profile Image for Robin LeBlanc.
Author 1 book7 followers
December 11, 2014
I've been a fan of Lucy Knisley's since French Milk. To date I own all her books (signed) and even have a wonderful print by her of a young Julia Child hanging on my wall. But after this, despite having no problems with her gorgeous and constantly refined drawing abilities...I no longer feel I can relate to her or bring myself to read anything by her again. At least not for a while.

A lot of that isn't totally her fault, it's just more that I saw a lot of myself in Lucy's works, a well-traveled and cultured woman who is being pulled in so many directions and wondering so much. Even French Milk had a rawness and vulnerability that I really loved. Friends and lovers were part of the background, as was her internal big questions and dilemmas, but Paris and her relationship with her mother were the central focus. Even after that, her sketch books and wonderings throughout and after school were something completely universal, even though her own story is unique.

With Age of License I didn't really see much in ways of universal connections. I'm glad that she has found a lot of success and has great financial support, but the disconnect and scope of privilege she has was jarring even at the start when we learn about her Manhattan apartment and the free trip to Europe with the ability to travel all over. I held out in the hopes that Lucy's pure passion and sense of wonderment for her surroundings would draw me in, but instead I was given a story where the locations were mere supporting cast members and the central focus was her European romance and the introspective angst that felt a bit too on the surface for it to be at all understandable. This book was a "travelogue" in the sense that we are aware that throughout all this she went to some places. It is a travelogue written by someone who I daresay has travelled so extensively that the focus on her location has gone down.

As a long time fan of Knisley, I gotta say...I think she should hold off a bit on attempting to make a grand story and focus on her musings and impressions. It's what made her earlier work so good and a lot of her raw thoughts made her comics relatable.

I have more to say, mainly about how nauseating I thought the "Eat, Pray, Love of the Girls generation" descriptor was, but that's more of a personal thing. I'll just end by saying that the art was gorgeous. But that story...I'm sorry, no one's fault, but I just can't relate to Knisley's work anymore.
Profile Image for Elizabeth A.
1,823 reviews108 followers
May 31, 2016
I keep travel journals while on on the road, and love travelogues of any kind. In this graphic memoir, the author records her experiences while on a European trip in 2011 that involves some business, lots of pleasure, delicious food and wine, and enough angst to make one's hair curl.

I guess this book would fall into the "New Adult" genre. The publisher touts it as the Eat, Pray, Love for the GIRLS generation, and I would agree with that, sans the Pray part. My complaint with this book is that it does not dive deep, but snorkels on the surface of the author's emotional life. I did love the watercolors and sketches, and I think this might really appeal to 20 somethings.
Profile Image for First Second Books.
560 reviews551 followers
June 2, 2014
Fantagraphics kindly gave me an ARC of this at BEA, and it’s a very fun trip through Europe – and through the mind of its author as she travels (in part) to promote her book.
Profile Image for Allie.
1,397 reviews38 followers
October 14, 2014
This rating/review is based on an ARC I picked up at the library. THANK YOU Fantagraphics for sending it to us!

It's not often we get ARC graphic novels, but when we do I snap them up ASAP.

I have read two of Lucy Knisley's books before, the foodie memoir Relish and the travelogue French Milk. I relate pretty strongly to her because we're pretty close in age. French Milk was written as she was finishing college and facing an uncertain future. This one is in a similar vein, explores "The Age of License" ("L'age Licence"*) -- the age where you're not tied down and can explore and figure stuff out. She writes about luck, privilege, stability, art, relationships, home, etc., and about being pulled in various directions by all those things. I did some general goofing off/moving around in college, but after that I settled into life pretty quickly. This was a fun vicarious experience while still hitting a lot of points that I'm also struggling with (even though I live in Milwaukee and live a pretty banal life).

I plan to read this again when it comes out since the ARC was exclusively in black and white. I am also definitely going to recommend this for purchase so I can write a review of it for the MPL blog.

*LK hears this phrase from the organizer of the Nantucket Wine Festival, and it's unclear whether he's American or French (or neither?). In the book she asks a french girl about the phrase and she's unfamiliar, so it's possible that it's not a real phrase. I too am unsure. I used my Mad Ready Reference Skillz, which turned up zero relevant results. Who knows!
Profile Image for Raina.
1,596 reviews125 followers
June 3, 2015
Yep, Knisley's getting better and better. It helps that she's catering to a special interest of mine here - international traveloguery. I really appreciate the honesty here (and it doesn't hurt that I follow her on Instagram and know a little of the ending).

I do wish that she'd colored the whole thing, instead of just selected pages (a la Relish: My Life in the Kitchen). And I missed the panels and directed narrative of Relish. But I can see that leaving things more freeform was a conscious choice (and particularly convenient since she was writing it as she traveled).
I really appreciated the parts where she got reflective. It's totally essential that she acknowledged her privilege. And of course the title... This book caused me to think about the "Ages" of my life.

Eager to read her next thing. Read if you're looking to be swept away with wistful nostalgia or yearning.
Profile Image for Sesana.
5,197 reviews345 followers
October 5, 2014
Knisley's travelogue drawn from journaling done as part of an extended stay in Europe: part business at a comics convention, part visiting friends, part quality time with mom, and part spending time with a new romance. There isn't much of substance here, but who expected there to be? It's really just following her experiences. That said, she has some really interesting thoughts on the progression of that romance, and her place in life. And I do like her art style quite a lot.

As a side note: at one point, Knisley mentions that while she was at the con, two men stalked her throughout the con then made a comic book of their sexual fantasies while stalking her which they sold at the next year's con. And there totally isn't a problem with sexism in comics, holy crap. She seems WAY less freaked about it than I would be, because holy crap.
Profile Image for Kaethe.
6,408 reviews463 followers
February 10, 2017
An Age of License - Lucy Knisley One of the great perks of being a successfully published author is the publicity tour. For some this is hell, for others it is a delight, for Knisley, it's all that and a tasty experience. Knisley relates her adventures on tour in Europe.
I'm never going to be a foody, but I enjoy her enjoyment of food.
Library copy
Profile Image for Sarah M.
427 reviews4 followers
April 1, 2023
Fun!! Love the art style and any book that I can learn something from is always a win
Profile Image for Ashley Owens.
404 reviews68 followers
May 12, 2016
actual rating = 2.5/5 stars
I picked this book up from the library completely impulsively. I wanted to read anther graphic novel or sequential art style novel, but all of the ones I had been reading lately were dark, heavy, or gory. “An Age of License” seemed like the exact right fit for me. I have a bad case of wanderlust, the main character is only a couple of years younger than me and is therefore having a similar identity crisis, and it’s an easy book to read!

I was unfortunately let down because of the content. To be more specific there just wasn’t enough of it. Lucy seems to skim through the other people in her life, her relationship with them, the new individuals she’s meeting, what she actually does when she’s in Europe, and her feelings about everything. Like I said it just skims the surface of her feelings - she says repeatedly that she doesn’t know if she wants to pursue her passion and be broke, or go for the money and be financially settled down. but she just questions that one thing over and over. But I mean, maybe that’s because that’s what was in the forefront of her mind at that time, so that’s what’s reflected in her book.

I liked the idea of her drawing her experiences. Her drawing style is wonderful and (when she does it right) it really adds personality and depth to the tale of her travels. For example she takes the time to draw a picture of her sort of boyfriend Henrik while he’s asleep in the early morning. Or there’s one of what the basement/cellar at a winery she visits in France looks like. Those specific details were very cool and really made it a unique way to tell readers what those places & experiences were like. You could really picture her there because, well, there was a picture!

But at other times I personally felt she chose the wrong things to draw. Many pages were spent drawing the food she was having… cheeses, vegetables, pastries, etc. I don’t really care what the food looks like! I wanted to know about her and the places & people! Again, wanted to know more about her mom, or her friends she was staying with! I will say I got to know Henrik pretty well though.

She’s an amazing artist though! Her details on the landscapes and buildings and things on the table in front of her, and in the rooms she’s in, etc. are incredible! Very full and impressive.

Also I like Lucy herself - she’s very relatable and independent and cute and fun and intelligent. That’s why I want to know her more!

Basically I just felt like I wanted more out of it. I didn’t mind the style or the premise or anything, it just felt a bit thin.
Profile Image for Emilia P.
1,708 reviews50 followers
February 2, 2015
Ugh, Lucy. Why do I loathe thee so thoroughly? I think its that there is a poor little rich girl thing going on -- oh, really, I have to struggle, but my mom is like a freaking chef or something, and this is not even my first Grand Tour of the Continent but oh, little old me. I think the real problem is that it's a near miss -- I'd probably love to do most of the things that she does (skip the romance, though) and eat all of the things that she eats, but I wouldn't spend a good quarter of my book apologizing/justifying them. I just want Lucy to live boldly and tell us about it and not tell us about her deliberations about it! Aughhhh. :)

But why do I keep reading, then? Probably it's one part identifying with her, and its a much bigger part, and I'm finally going to acknowledge it -- I like the reliable and cute but not twee way that she draws! If she could find a super-compelling story to tell, perhaps one that is not in her own globe-trotting belly-button, I would shout from the rooftops of its greatness.
Profile Image for Shannon Appelcline.
Author 22 books138 followers
December 11, 2015
OK, so this is a comic/journal. The problem is that it's not a particularly interesting journal. It's more like what I'd journal, except with occasional pretentious drawings of food and portraits.

"Age of License" that sounded interesting too, like it might be about a girl's time sowing wild oats. But it's just a four-week trip to Europe. And though there might be some wild-oat sowing, it's not particularly noatable. For Pete's sake, she hangs out with her mom in Europe. How license-y is that?

Finally, the angst and self-absorption just made me want to scream. Fortunately, it's not constant. Unfortunately it comes across as privileged and (once more) pretentious.

I give this book a meh. Not deep, and not all that interesting.
Profile Image for b.andherbooks.
2,092 reviews930 followers
January 31, 2019
A graphic memoir of author/illustrator Lucy's grand tour of Europe, complete with a stopover at a Swedish Comics convention, a romance with a Swedish pessimist, and fraught with anxiety and hope for the future.

Knisley speaks to me on many levels, and I love the concept of a graphic travelouge. I also enjoy keeping a diary when I travel and only wish I could also capture my journeys in illustration. Alas, I'll just have to enjoy the skills of those far more talented than I.

An Age of License was one of the only of Knisley's works I hadn't yet read, so I was so pleased it helped tick off one of my 2017 Book Riot Read Harder Challenge items (travel memoir).
Profile Image for Ian Hrabe.
703 reviews10 followers
April 7, 2015
A beautifully illustrated tribute to privilege.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 808 reviews

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