Friday, September 18, 2009

Book Review: My Life in France by Julia Child

As you may remember, a while ago Geoff and I saw the movie Julie and Julia and we got all inspired to cook together from Julia Child's cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Yeah, well, that didn't happen. But all is not lost, because the day I bought the cookbook I was also sucked in by the display inspired to buy Julia Child's memoir - My Life in France. I am happy to report that I had much more success with this book than I did with her cookbook.

My Life in France was written as a collaboration between Julia Child and her great-nephew Alex Prud'homme and was published after her death in 2004 at age 91. It covers a huge portion of her life and virtually her entire marriage to Paul Child. After seeing the movie, I was really curious to learn more about Julia and especially more about her marriage and relationship with Paul. The movie depicted their relationship as being a true partnership and an amazing love story. I was hoping to learn more about this intriguing couple.While the book did provide a inside view of their marriage and partnership, it was so much more than that.
Paul and Julia's relationship really was one built on mutual respect and collaboration. Paul was much more involved in Julia's work on her cookbooks and TV Show than was portrayed in the movie. And based on Julia's recollections it was a very supportive and happy marriage.

What I wasn't expecting to gain from the book was such an open window into Julia's personality. She was an incredible woman with fascinating views and a joie de vivre rarely seen. She was so open to new experiences, cultures, foods and adventures. She had an amazing capacity to adapt and a wonderful sense of humor. She was not one to get sidetracked by "bumps in the road". Rather she accepted all that life had to offer and lived life to the fullest. I loved this about her.

She also describes France, the French and the French lifestyle with such enthusiasm and love that it's impossible not to want to hop on the next plane to Paris and find a ramshackle apartment on the Left Bank to live in for the next couple of years. One of the items on my bucket list is to live in a foreign country for an extended period of time. I've always assumed it would be a French speaking country since I am familiar with the language after having taken 6 years of French in HS and college. After reading this book, it's definite. France it is!

There was one aspect of the book that was a definite drawback for me. At different points in the book, Child goes into great detail discussing her recipes and how she developed them. Since I'm not someone who likes to cook all that much, these passages tended to bore me somewhat. They also made me realize how technical and inaccessible the recipes in Mastering the Art of French Cooking are. I wish I had read My Life in France before I spent $40 on the cookbook. Now more than ever, I am convinced that Geoff and I will never be able to make a single recipe out of that book. (I have renewed respect for Julie Powell. How she managed to cook at least one of Julia's recipes every day for a year is beyond me).

Overall, I enjoyed My Life in France. I would it give 3 stars (I liked it).

Image from Google Images.


MissKris said...

I have one "Place Hold" slot vacant on my library account. I am going there as soon as I post this to put this book on hold. I always found her to be particularly fascinating. I dunno why, since I've never been much of a cooking show fan...but hers was ALWAYS entertaining.

Tammy Howard said...

She really was - is - such an intriguing personality. I think I'd like to read this (you haven't lead me wrong yet...)

Sandy said...

I'm with Tammy with this one, might have to go on my to-read list.

I have a 1968 copy of JC's cookbook. I think John Norton gave it to me. (Remember John Norton? such a Anyway I've looked through the cookbook over the years and was never really intersted in any of the recipes for the reason you said.....they are SO complicated. Cooking doesn't have to be that hard!

Anita said...

I had the same feelings about the cookbook after browsing through it, very multi step intensive, and honestly, I'm not that kind of cook.
I think I'd like to read this book though, she really was so much more than just the woman we saw on TV.

Kathy B! said...

THis sounds like a good read, but I'd probably just skip over those cooking sections! I didn't realize how complicated French cooking was, I guess!

Anonymous said...

Great review! I am anxious to read the book. I am pretty certain that it will still not inspire me to cook anything difficult. No desire or time for that can you imagine how very difficult it really must have been for Julie Powell to accomplish all that she had to be an exhausting year in her life.

I notice that you are now reading "Crashing Through", I read that book last year. I will be anxious to hear/read your take on the book. The book certainly made an impression on me.


Sandy said...

What the heck! I already "Crashing Through!" Does that mean I found something before you. Loved it BTW.

Pam said...

Colleen - It was from you and Sandy that I heard about Crashing Through at a book club meeting a while ago. The book club I run for the library will be discussing this next Wednesday. I just started it last night and I really like it so far. So much potential for great discussion. I will try to post a review here after the book club meeting.

Midlife Jobhunter said...

"it's impossible not to want to hop on the next plane to Paris and find a ramshackle apartment on the Left Bank to live in for the next couple of years."

I'll go!

Sorry to hear about the cooking together not happening. Oh, well. Great idea. I will get on the waiting list for this book at the library. Interesting the relationships some couples have. I guess ours is travel, but we don't get to do that very often these days. Kids, I guess.

Anonymous said...

Happy Saturday Sharefest! Love your blog! I'll be back!

Crafty Girls Workshop said...

Your blog is so cute! Happy SITS Saturday, great review!


Esther said...

Yeah, I definitely want to read this, too. I love travel-oriented memoirs, people living in foreign countries, etc.


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