31 March 2011

Book Review: My Life in France by Julia Child with Alex Prud'homme

  
Julia and Paul Child
Do the French dream about living abroad as much as the rest of the world seems to dream about living in France?

Much has been written in the blogosphere about this book since the movie and "Julie and Julia" hit the big screen. I probably won't break any new ground in this review as I loved it as much as every other sane person on the planet. What is not to love? It works on so many levels. Not only does the book allow us to vicariously live in France and eat amazing food but we also get a chance to hang out with one of the most enthusiastic, life affirming humans to ever walk the planet. I have loved Julia since I was a child. And she was the subject of an early post here on My Porch.

Back in the late 1990s as I approached my 30s, I read Appetite for Life a biography of Julia Child by Noel Riley Fitch. The most important thing I took away from that reading was that Child, a revolutionary force in American food, didn't start cooking until she was in her early 30s.  This gave me the added boost I needed to leave behind a fun, well-paying job to go back to school for another Master's degree. And now here I am in my early 40s and am again inspired by Child's late bloomer success and absolute lust for life.

Like I said I don't have much new ground to cover on this well reviewed book so I won't say too much more. There were two literary connections in this book that I found fascinating. One was that Dorothy Canfield (Fisher) makes a few epistolary appearances in the text. Canfield Fisher, author of one of my favorite novels The Home-Maker, was friends with one of Child's cookbook collaborators and played an early, cameo role in the development of their magnum opus Mastering the Art of French Cooking. And the second, perhaps even more impressive literary connection is that Judith Jones, the editor who finally brought MAFC to print was an editorial assistant who convinced her boss to reconsider his decision to not buy the US rights to publish Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl. Jones sure knows how to spot a gem.

Unless you are a cranky, life-hating, mistanthrope who doesn't like to eat, you will love this book.
  

10 comments:

  1. Interesting question regarding the French. My guess is they have no interest in living anywhere else as their culture is so, how to put it....self-absorbed? They definitely have national pride that I think no other country can rival. Most Frenchmen are proud to say they have never vacationed outside of France as it has everything they could possibly want; mountains, seaside, plains, vineyards, etc.

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  2. As someone who preferred the Julia part of Julie and Julia to the Julie part, I dearly wish that this book or the biography would get filmed, because Julia Child was interesting enough for two movies.

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  3. "Unless you are a cranky, life-hating, mistanthrope who doesn't like to eat, you will love this book."
    LOL! Thanks for the review. You did give me another impetus to get to this one sooner than later with the Canfield Fisher link. I love those kinds of connections when they show up in books.

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  4. Well, lately I've been a cranky misanthrope, but I do really want to read this book, and I know I'll love it. I actually saw JC speak years ago at the National Restaurant Convention in Chicago. She was wonderful and I got her autograph which I'm sure I've lost, sigh.

    I used to watch JC on PBS when I was a kid and she made me a life-long food lover, and inspired me to go to cooking school after college. I will always worship her. Why haven't I read this book yet?????

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  5. All right, I must move this one up on the TBR list (it landed there back when I read Julie and Julia, which was probably about -- egad! -- five years ago now), as The Home-Maker is one of my favorite novels, too. And I like to pretend I'm not the cranky misanthrope I really am.

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  6. I love France, I love food, I love It sounds perfect, must just read it. Didn't know about Julia's connection with Dorothy Canfield Fisher, but I always love it when one favourite turns out to linked to another however remotely. A favourite fantasy of mine (never ever to be realised of course!) is suddenly to realise that *insert favourite author* is actually third great cousin twice removed or some such distant connection!

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  7. I love Julia Child because she was not afraid of food. Nor was she a scold.

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  8. Ha, great last sentence! There is definitely much to love in this book. It was one of my favorites last year...was thrilled with the connection to Dorothy Canfield-Fisher, too.

    My book club is reading it this month, but I'll be away for the discussion :-(

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  9. I read this book when I was on maternity leave and between work contracts - it was the perfect pick-me-up.

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  10. Stefan: I think you may be right.

    Bibliophile: I certainly could have watched more.

    Susan: The connections are especially fun when I realize that if I had read the book three years ago I wouldn't have known who Canfield Fisher was.

    Karen: You really need to. With all that is said and written about her, this definitely feels like her own voice.

    Emily: My crankiness dissipates when I read about JC.

    Donna: Although JC was "The French Chef" to all of us here in the US, I never really knew how much she truly loved France.

    Betsy: Exactly.

    JoAnn: I hope your book club also includes great food.

    Mother: It is a great pick-me-up.

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