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.