13 September 2009

Review: French Milk by Lucy Knisley

Review: French Milk by Lucy KnisleyThe winter Lucy Knisley turns twenty-two and her mother turns fifty, the two of them decide to spend about five weeks living in Paris. They are both at critical points in their lives.

French Milk is the charming journal of Knisley's experience in the City of Lights. Using drawings and photographs, she shows us a unique mix of typical tourist spots (the Eiffel Tower) and parts of the city discovered only by exploring (small unheralded markets). The book is a little bit travel guide and a whole lot foodie.

What is particularly interesting about the memoir is that Knisley takes a frank look at herself and her own behavior. She is not sure of her future, she misses her friends, and she sometimes feels blue. However, her intelligence and appreciation of the arts (literary, visual, and culinary) are strong elements, whether she is searching for her favorite Courbet painting or marveling that she is standing in the same bookstore that Hemingway frequented. Knisley's honesty also comes across when she writes about the less attractive sides of the city. We learn of the snotty maƮtre d', freaky street people, and rude behavior.

Throughout it all, however, is the food: descriptions of food, drawings of food, hints at recipes, visits to restaurants, wanderings through markets, and shopping ventures in kitchen stores. Knisley and her mother are hearty and adventuresome eaters. If you've ever been to Europe, you'll immediately be dreaming of your favorite meal, good bread, excellent coffee, and wonderful cheese. I was ready to call the airlines and start packing!

Just before leaving for France, Knisley had applied for an internship with a cartoonist; that her journal would be in graphic form was only natural. The drawings in French Milk have just enough detail that the images and people's emotions are instantly recognizable, but they are definitely in the comic genre (click image to see in full size). I easily connected with Knisley's approachable style. Her photographs provide added interest, but I don't think they are of the same quality as her artwork.

I loved Knisley's relationship with her mother, and the book had me dreaming of spending a month with my own mother in Europe. I wish we had thought of doing the same thing thirty years ago. I recommend the book to travelers, foodies, mothers and daughters, and lovers of memoirs and graphic books.

According to Publisher's Weekly, Knisley is working on a second graphic memoir that will focus more exclusively on food. Lucy Knisley has a website with examples of her art, writing, and music.

Published by Simon & Schuster, 2008
ISBN-13: 9781416575344
Challenges: 100+, 999
YTD: 69
Rating B+


S. Krishna 9/13/09, 10:54 AM  

This book looks like so much fun. I've got it on my shelf and really need to read it! Thanks for the review.

Molly 9/13/09, 11:28 AM  

I have not heard of this book before, but the title captured my attention right away. Now that I know it is about a 5 week stay in the City of Lights and focuses on the Parisian food, I know that I must read it! Thanks for the review :)

Alea 9/13/09, 11:32 AM  

Wasn't this a great one! A friend of mine told me to check out her website, I did and then knew i had to read this one!

bermudaonion 9/13/09, 11:51 AM  

This book looks and sounds fabulous to me! I'm adding it to my wish list.

Stacy 9/13/09, 12:16 PM  

Reading your review along with JoAnn's, I may be reading this book sooner than I thought:)

The Tome Traveller 9/13/09, 12:30 PM  

This is the kind of graphic that I could really get into, it sounds great!

Dawn @ sheIsTooFondOfBooks 9/13/09, 3:00 PM  

food, travel, and fun art, wrapped inside a memoir?! This is going on my wishlist, too!

It looks like it was published a year ago, but I hadn't heard of FRENCH MILK until reading another review earlier this week. Glad you're bringing it to our attention, as I'd like to read more graphics.

Was it your blogiversary!?? I missed the cake :(

Ana S. 9/13/09, 3:01 PM  

I've been on the fence about this book for a long time, but I think what you said about the food has sold me :P

Sandy Nawrot 9/13/09, 3:09 PM  

I've seen a review of this book somewhere around, and it stuck in my head. The whole mother/daughter thing is a plot in and of itself. Throw in Paris and food? It's all good!

Unknown 9/13/09, 4:25 PM  

I haven't heard of this before, but I loved Fun Home (a graphic memoir) so am keen to try another one.

I've just added this to my wish list. Thank you!

Carrie K. 9/13/09, 6:54 PM  

Definitely adding this one to my wish list - great review!

Rebecca Johnson 9/13/09, 8:01 PM  

I haven't seen this book before, but I'm definately going to go looking for it. What an amazing way to tell the story

Melody 9/14/09, 1:17 AM  

I've heard a lot of great things about this book so of course I've to add it to my wishlist! :)

Veens 9/14/09, 1:54 AM  

Sounds really great... I am great foodie... I am very sure i will love this one.. After reading this I also feel like spending a few days holidaying with my mom :)

Beth Kephart 9/14/09, 7:04 AM  

Oh, to be able to draw...

(and to go somewhere new, and eat)

Kim (Sophisticated Dorkiness) 9/14/09, 11:11 AM  

Wow, this book looks great. I haven't read many comic/memoir sorts of books by women and I've been wanting to do that. I hope the library has it!

Eva @ One Swede Read 9/14/09, 8:20 PM  

That one looks great - I'm definitely reading this!!!! Thanks for the heads-up!

JoAnn 9/15/09, 4:57 PM  

I really enjoyed this, too, and just posted a review today. Thanks for including a link to her website. I'll head over and check it out. Too bad about the photos. I though they could have been clearer or better, but they did seem to give it a more 'homemade' feel. Maybe that's what she was going for?

Melissa 9/17/09, 2:01 PM  

I picked this one up off the bargin table at a store. It looked good, but your review inspired me to try and track it down from within my TBR.

Anonymous,  10/26/09, 3:16 PM  

Lucy is a charming character, but her mother remains a bit of a mystery in the book.I would have liked to have heard more about their "changing relationship" which she aludes to in the last page.

I also wondered more about her relationship with her father, and whether she secretly had a wish, seeing her parents get together in Paris, that they were getting back together for good.

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