Monday, September 17, 2012

Review: My Life in France by Julia Child, with Alex Prud'Homme

photos by Paul Child
 Reviewed by Christina

Published: 2006

It's about: The wikipedia summary is excellent and I'm feeling lazy tonight, so I'm just going to copy/paste it for you:
"My Life in France is an autobiography by Julia Child, published in 2006. It was compiled by Julia Child and Alex Prud'homme, her husband's grandnephew, during the last eight months of her life, and completed and published by Prud'homme following her death in August 2004.[1]
In her own words, it is a book about the things Julia loved most in her life: her husband, France (her "spiritual homeland"), and the "many pleasures of cooking and eating." It is a collection of linked autobiographical stories, mostly focused on the years between 1948 and 1954, recounting in detail the culinary experiences Julia and her husband, Paul Child, enjoyed while living in Paris, Marseilles, and Provence.[2]
The text is accompanied by black-and-white photographs taken by Paul Child, and research for the book was partially done using family letters, datebooks, photographs, sketches, poems and cards.[3]
My Life in France provides a detailed chronology of the process through which Julia Child's name, face, and voice became well known to most Americans.
The book also contains an extremely detailed index cataloging every person, place, ingredient, recipe, topic and event discussed."

I thought: I love Julia Child!  She is so bubbly and enthusiastic, without coming off as airheaded or annoying.  She's an extremely likeable narrator, and Alex Prud'Homme beautifully captures her voice and her casual, confidential manner.  When I picked up My Life in France, I hoped to like her as much as I did in Julie and Julia.  She's even more wonderful here, since she's actually herself (as opposed to a character).  I love the way she freely expresses her love and admiration for France, food, and her husband.  She really was a charming woman, and this is a charming book. 

One thing I find particularly inspiring about Julia Child's life story is that she had very little interest in cooking and no interest in French food until she moved to France when she was in her late 30's.  JULIA CHILD didn't find her calling in life until well into her adulthood.  Isn't that so great?  In a world where every preschooler is pushed to be great at something (or everything) from the very beginning, and we're all encouraged to settle on a major/career in our late teens, it's so refreshing to read about someone who had a fascinating and fulfilling young adult life (she served in the foreign service during WWII), and then finally REALLY found what she loved when she was nearly 40.  I love that.

My Life in France is not an action-packed read.  The readers who will appreciate it most are people (like myself) who love France, cooking and Ms. Child.  But it's very nicely written, with all sorts of interesting cultural vignettes not just about the French, but about Germans, Norwegians, and Americans as well.  I just ate this book up!  (Pun fully intended.) 

I gotta say, though, that most of the foods she describes sound totally disgusting to this picky pescetarian.    

Verdict: It may not be for everyone, but I'll still happily stick it on the shelf.

Reading Recommendations:  Light, sweet reading.  Check it out when you want to get to know Julia Child, I guess!

Warnings:  nothing

Favorite excerpts: “Maybe the cat has fallen into the stew, or the lettuce has frozen, or the cake has collapsed. Eh bien, tant pis. Usually one's cooking is better than one thinks it is. And if the food is truly vile, then the cook must simply grit her teeth and bear it with a smile, and learn from her mistakes.”

“The sweetness and generosity and politeness and gentleness and humanity of the French had shown me how lovely life can be if one takes time to be friendly.”

What I'm reading next: Last Night in Twisted River by John Irving