Two weeks ago I read Julie & Julia, a book I greatly enjoyed. In one of the comments, a reader suggested that I also read My Life in France by Julia Child (with Alex Prud’Homme), as it was the book that helped influence both the book and movie version of Julie & Julia. One my recent trip to the public library My Life in France was at the top of my “cannot leave the library without these books” list, and I’m so glad I got this book! I read it in just a few sittings, three in fact. The first sitting got me five pages short of the half-way mark; the second got my within 30 pages of the end; and the third took hardly any time last night to finish the book before bed.

My Life in France

This book is exactly what the title says: Julia Child’s life in France. In the fall of 1948 she moved to Paris with her husband, Paul Child, for his government job. He worked as a part public relations consultant between the US and France, and part art director. While Julia had lived abroad before because of her government job, she had never been in France before, and instantly fell in love. Through reading this book, I also feel in love with France! This book was written, with the help of Paul’s grandnephew Alex, in the last years before Julia’s death, and is a wonderful combination of the history of French food and her journey to publishing Mastering the Art of French Cooking, I and II, and her wonderful life filled with friends and family. The organization of the book is loosely chronological; it reads just like a conversation with a person who has lived a full and exciting life, and includes many interruptions to the main story of their French adventures to mention friends, family, and events that had happened before their move. Although I like highly organized books and would normally be irritated by this, the writing style was so conversational and relaxed, I found it impossible to be annoyed at the amazing Julia Child!

The book includes many black and white photos from her life, many of which were taken by Paul. The provide a wonderfully personal look into her life. The book covers a great span of time, and includes stories from their life several French towns, her time at the Cordon Bleu school, their time in Germany, and their move back to the US and the creation of her television show. Despite all the traveling the couple did over the years, their lives revolved around food–eating at the best restaurants, befriending the most famous chefs and wine collectors, and constant cooking and teaching. Julia’s passion for her work comes across perfectly in the book, and every time she talked about cooking a dish I felt inspired to go whip up one myself! Along with the food talk, her stories about France make it sound perfect. The markets she visited daily are full of great characters who are always willing to teach curious buyers about their food. The French people she describes are friendly, incredibly knowledgeable about their food, and always willing to talk with those who are passionate about food.

I’ve never been to France (in fact, I’ve never been outside the US), but this book certainly sparked my wanderlust. The country side, as seen through Julia’s eyes, sounds like a fairy land. The people she knew were by turns funny, helpful, and lively. The passion she had for life comes through so perfectly, I believe this may be one of the best memoirs I have ever read. For anyone who loves food or travel, and anyone looking for a book that makes them happy to be alive, I greatly recommend this book.

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