February 9, 2010

My Life in France by Julia Child

7 of 10: If you're interested in Julia Child, you'll probably like My Life in France. It moves fairly quickly and has lots of interesting stories. Still, I found I didn't like Julia as much by the end of the book as I did after I saw the movie, Julie and Julia.

After seeing the movie, I was interested in reading Julia Child's book that the movie was based on. I hadn't liked Julie Powell's book all that much when I read it 3 years ago, but the movie charmed me, especially the Julia Child part.

The movie is fairly true to the story, so if you've seen it, you know basically how it's going to go in the book. Julia and her husband, Paul, move to Paris for a government assignment, she falls instantly in love with French food and she begins taking cooking classes at the Cordon Bleu. She gets recruited by two French authors to help them write a cookbook about French cooking for an American audience, since she is, in fact, American, and eventually ends up being the main author of that cookbook (or at least the one who gets all the fame in the US once it is finally published, which is a feat in and of itself).

I wasn't sure how much time the book would cover, since I knew they didn't live in France for all that long (less than ten years, I believe), but it spans around 30 years, because even after they  move back to Cambridge in the states, they maintain a small residence in Provance.

I think you really have to like food and be pretty interested in it to love this book because there is so much discussion of restaurant meals, the foods she makes in her classes at the Cordon Bleu, and the endless testing of recipes. It made me realize that, while I like to cook and to eat, I have no where near her enthusiasm for it. The idea of deboning and then stuffing and cooking TWO ducks in one afternoon (and then eating them both myself, eek) has no appeal to me. But then, French food, aside from the desserts and the pasteries, is not exactly my favorite cuisine either. Give me a good Thai curry any day of the week.

I listened to this on CD in the car, and I think that worked well for me because although the story moved quickly enough, I could definitely see it being a book I would read a few pages of and then not pick up again for a while, whereas I was pretty interested in it the whole time when it was just playing and I didn't have to stumble over all the French words.

One thing that kind of tainted the book for me, I think, was how sour Julia was toward her father. She and Paul were extremely liberal and her father was very conservative, and she let that almost completely anihilate her relationship with him. When he finally died, she said she just felt relieved. I don't doubt that he was difficult to deal with and didn't respect her political views as she might have wished, but the reoccuring discussion of what a pill he was seemed a bit unnecessary and just irriating after a while.

I didn't realize how recently this book was written - it only came out in 2006, so it's fairly new, written when Julia was a very old woman and published after her death.


  1. probably why she was bitter- she was toward the end of her life- when regrets surface and sometimes that anger can emerge and be masked by 'anger' she may have felt anger or regret for past mistakes. I agree- it was long and drawn out about food- and I don't share as much enthusiasim as Julia (I'm with you on the duck! and the pastries!)anyhow I think you gave it a high review- still a fun read but it was like almost knowing more about her ruined the image I portrayed in my mind...

  2. I was less than impressed with Julie Powell's book, so I didn't have a great hankering to see the movie until after I read the Julia Child book. I really enjoyed getting a sense of her voice (there was one line I loved about how she is against the prostitution of language), and I got a little thrill whenever they mentioned her home PBS station, WGBH, because that was the station I watched growing up.

  3. I'll take the Thai Curry as well! She was kind of an amazing woman though! I remember my mom adoring her on our huge console television.

  4. I really want to read this just because of Paul and Julia Child's relationship. My grandma showed me the pictures from the book, and they are hilarious. Good review--

  5. Thank you for the review! It's on hold for me at the local library now. I'll start it tomorrow :)

  6. Bookmarking this to read after I've finished the book. I'm only about a quarter of the way through, but I'm very much loving it so far.

  7. Interesting review. Not really my type of thing to be honest but it was great to read about something different.


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