Sunday, January 1, 2012

Books Like Whoa: My Life in France (Favorites Edition- 2011 Read)

I've been think about what makes a book a favorite and what patterns there are in what I dig. The results have been... interesting. And have produced a number of book reviews. Which I will share throughout this year.

So, kicking off my favorite books...

My Life in France
by Julia Child and Alex Prud'homme

Procured from Borders, back when there was such a thing. Tear.

Procured in Spring 2011

Finished on June 25, 2011

Format: Trade paperback with a great picture of Julia and Paul (and there are some awesome/horrifying pictures of them sprinkled throughout)

Why I gave it a try: I have an admitted and growing fixation on the movie "Julie and Julia." I just love it and watch it whenever I feel like giving up on writing and doing something more practical - I love watching Julia's passion and perseverance to do what she loved. And it makes me want to cook whenever I watch.

Summary: Julia Child is a newlywed, going with her husband, Paul, to a diplomatic posting in Paris. She has some rudimentary memories of her school French, but she's far from fluent and has never visited the country before. She was also a mediocre cook, at best, when she arrived. In the midst of going to cooking school and doing everything that she's famous for doing, we get a beautifully recounted tale of Julia and Paul's life together, the troubles of the time, and life in post-WWII Europe.

Thoughts: Oh, how I loved this book. Seriously, it's the perfect memoir and I just gobbled it up with unconcealed delight, probably giggling manically while doing so. I was utterly transported by the simple but beautiful telling of a truly fascinating life.

It's not just that they seem to be leading this glamorous life in a glamorous city, or that they are clearly passionately in love, or that there are interesting political machinations afoot. It's that these events are recounted with a kind of joie de vivre that reminds one of a much younger woman, who hasn't had her innocence robbed by the normal course of life. She has, though. Throughout the narrative, small references are made to hardships large and small. What is remarkable is her frankness in confronting these dark spots, without bitterness, naivete, or cynicism. She takes life as it comes and never loses hope that life cane be something beautiful and exciting.

I loved seeing her slowly grow as a cook and as a person, becoming the bon vivant that we all know and love. She and Paul also have an incredibly romantic marriage, a marriage of equals and partners, who view life as a constant adventure to be embarked upon together. They seem like partners in crime, and you realize that Paul was really the animating force of her life and work. It's an amazing portrait of what a marriage looks like when both people are completely committed to supporting each other and not intimidated by the other person's successes or failures.

Finally, I was truly touched by the story. Julia (and I suspect Alex had a strong hand in this) paints the scenes beautifully and the characters who haunt mid-century Europe are vivid and fascinating. I was so emotionally invested in all of them that by the end of the book, when many of their friends start to pass on, I found myself crying. I missed them. Which isn't really possible, but that's how strongly she was able to get me invested in the story.

Oh, it's so good. Just read it. And love it. And go cook something afterwards.


7 - I will have to seriously reevaluate any friendship or romantic interest that does not like this book: a favorite 

What are your favorite memoirs? What makes a memoir great?

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