Tuesday, November 02, 2010

My Life in France

There are a couple subjects that can be assured to get me talking: movies and food. I love thinking about food, talking about food, tasting food--even taking pictures of food is fun.

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.

14 comments:

Shannon said...

I loved that movie, especially the parts with Merle Streep. I would love to try cooking through her book like the girl in the movie, but maybe one recipe a week for the rest of my life rather than everyday for a year. I have tried to convince my husband to take one more tour with the FS after the kids all leave home and go someplace just for us, like Paris, Rome, or London.

BTW Just did a google search and here nephew was Alex Prud'homme not Paul Prudhomme the chef. I always look stuff up, I am crazy that way.

Janel said...

I loved the movie too - especially the Julia parts. I adore Amy Adams in general, so although the Julie character was less than, I looked past it.

Thanks for the recommendation!

Kathy G said...

I just rented (and watched) the movie over the weekend, so your post was quite timely!

It seems like Julia Child was quite the remarkable woman. I'll have to put the book on my list to read.

Tammy said...

I just put a hold on it at my library!

BTW I loved Amy Adams as Julie...

Chrisbookarama said...

Your assessment of the movie is the same as mine. More Julia please! I must get this book soon. I know I'm going to love it.

Scribbit said...

Thanks--I didn't look it up myself and switched the names in my brain!

Oh and I have the cookbook and there's a whole section on "brains and sweetmeats."

I'm probably biased towards Julia rather than Julie because she was 6'2". Anyone that tall is my hero :)

Kim said...

My favorite part of the movie also was Julia Childs' story—I didn't know how much of it was fictionalized, so I am really interested in reading the book!

Kayris said...

I read the book over the summer and LOVED it. Her sniping at Republicans got on my nerves though. But I did think she and Paul were the cutest couple!

Saw the movie a couple of years ago and liked it, Amy Adams is adorable, but later found out the actual person Julie is much less likeable.

Scribbit said...

That's what I'd heard too--my friend who is a good food blogger met her and said she's pretty rough. In the movie they make it seem like Julia is a jerk for not meeting her but then I think they only presented half the story there.

Funny you'd say that about her sniping--I had kind of the same impression though it was more that I thought she had a hard time letting things go with her Dad, seems she kind of slammed him a bit in the book when it takes two to argue. I think she was as vocal in her political views and just couldn't let his comments go without putting in her two cents. Sometimes you just have to smile for the sake of family peace :)

Serena said...

I loved the Julia Child parts of the movie, though I could have done without the self-absorbed-Julie parts. I just started this book, and so far, good! ;)

Erin said...

The two things I love (and are obsessed with) are food and France. So this book combines both of my favorite things! I can't believe I have never read it. It's going on my Christmas list.

The Library Lady said...

Julie Powell was even worse on her blog--foul mouthed and self absorbed. I can't stand that she's made a name for herself on the back of a class act like Julia Child, and from what I know Child didn't like her blog at all, that's why she didn't meet her.

I also read one review of the film that commented how Amy Adams did her best to make her likable, but with the material she was working with :D

Loved this book. Still haven't seen the movie, though I may and fast forward through the Powell stuff!

thatreallytallgirl said...

I too loved this book! I just wished I spoke french so I could figure out what in the world she was cooking!

charrette said...

Yes, I loved that book. Gives you such a great sense of the passion which with she lived her life!