French Milk is a lightning fast read as it is a comic memoir, a new format for me. Lucky Knisley was 21 at the end of 2006 when she was lucky enough to go to Paris for a month. She shared an apartment with her mother on a trip to celebrate two birthdays. Her mother was turning 50, and Lucy herself would turn 22 while she was away. Lucy had already been to Paris when backpacking as a 17 year old with friends. What an amazing thing to have your second trip to Paris and only be 21.
Lucy is coming towards a bit of a crossroads in her young life. She will be finishing college in a few months and embarking on her adult life. She seems rather distressed about all this and caught up with anxiety about these upcoming changes. So much so that they get in the way of her enjoyment of Paris, and my enjoyment of her month in Paris. Too much near teenage angst for this reader at times. I suspect that many readers looking for a nice Paris memoir don't want this much angst and self loathing.
Paris does win her over at times, but she is still quite self-absorbed. The book is at it's best when Lucy describes her wanderings in words and pictures. I've never been to the Grand Mosquee, and didn't know that you could have lunch there, but it sounds a rather fascinating thing to do. She is somewhat obsessed with Oscar Wilde (as am I), and visits his very famous grave, and then has a drink at the hotel where he died.
Being an art student Lucy is keen to immerse herself in the myriad art and cultural activities available to the visitor to Paris. I was surprised at the length of the queues that she struck visiting Parisian monuments in the dead of winter. Lucy and her mother also watched movies with a Paris flavour, including Funny Face. They were very brave and went to the cinema in Paris, again something I'd never thought of doing. Perhaps it is possible?
I liked French Milk most when Lucy was describing and drawing her meals and excursions into Paris. A tagine at the Grande Mosquee, the hot chocolate at Angelina's (surely the best hot chocolate in the world), simple meals of cheese and wine in the aparment, or bistro fare. Although she did drive me a bit crazy by constantly referring to macarons as cookies.
The French Milk of the title comes indeed from Lucy's love of actual French milk. She gushes over it several times. I don't believe I've ever tried it myself, although I have done my best with other French milk products- yoghurt, cheese and butter. All are magnificent, but ooooh, the butter, the glorious, glorious butter. Pale. Sweet. Heavenly. Perhaps I can call my "I travelled to France and ate a lot of butter" memoir French Butter?
Paris in July is cohosted by Karen at BookBath
and Tamara at Thyme for Tea