Tuesday, November 02, 2010
If you find yourself as obsessed with food as I am (and yes, obsessed would be the correct term there) you've got to read this book. Julia Child's My Life in France was published in 2009 with help from her nephew, Alex Prudhomme, after he sat down with her to record her memoirs in 2006. She'd meant for many years to write a book about her life but with all the work of writing cookbooks and making a television show she hadn't had the time. As her life was drawing to a close Prudhomme convinced her to make the time and I'm so glad he did because the result is a gorgeous piece of storytelling.
If you've seen the movie Julie and Julia (see, there I go again--food and movies) then much of the narrative might feel familiar to you because the movie was based partly on the book but, as is so often the case, the book is SO much better.
It begins with Julia and Paul Child moving to post-war France, eager and open to anything the new culture can offer and it isn't long before Julia discovers a love of French food and cooking. The story follows their loving marriage, hobbies, travels and the people they collect along the way (she meets an amazing array of cultural celebrities from movie stars to writers and artists, and all before she is even remotely famous). You find yourself falling in love with the place as much as they do and feeling that it's too bad you didn't get a chance to meet the couple because you're quite sure you'd all be best friends.
When I saw the movie Julie and Julia I loved it, but what I really loved was the half with Meryl Streep playing Julia Child. Amy Adams as Julie What's-Her-Bucket was somewhat irritating, whiny and difficult to live with so to find that the book covers the part of the movie I loved PLUS the years beyond where the movie ends was a huge bonus. It's all the good parts and none of the downers.
The book is not only a sweet tribute to the Childs' marriage and the persona behind the celebrity but it's a beautiful photograph of a France that has since been absorbed into the modern world. You don't have to be obsessed with food to appreciate the excellent writing and storytelling taken from Julia's copious journals and letters and you don't have to be a Francophile to enjoy the quirky French and oddly endearing inconveniences of a post-war Paris but by the time you've finished you'll find yourself wanting to whip up an omlet or bone a duck to be just like Julia and see if you too can't learn to live a little more graciously.
A great book.