While we were in Normandy, I did a lot of reading. That’s because I was reading in English. When we moved here I told myself that if I had time to read books in English for leisure, I had time to study French. I never study French so I could never read. I took myself off book restriction during vacation because I really wanted to relax. Plus, I’ll be starting French courses again soon so I figured I could loosen the cuffs.
Luckily, the weather was mostly beautiful and I did the majority of my reading from this lounge chair:
One of the books I read was My Life in France by Julia Child with, her nephew, Alex Prud’homme.
I enjoyed this book in the sense that it gave me hope that I too will someday find my passion and be lucky enough to make a career of it. In fact, my friend recommended it when I told her I was thinking of quitting my job, but had no clue as to what to do next. Coupled with my lack of fluency in French, it seemed making a career change in France would be hopeless.
Another aspect of the book I enjoyed was her stories about old France, for example, when Les Halles was still based in Paris. I tried to imagine where she was, where she shopped, and the restaurants she ate in.
I also liked reading about the deep love and respect she had for her husband, Paul. They seemed to share a very strong bond and be best friends. They spent their time working on interesting projects, side-by-side, and traveling the world together. He seemed to support her each step of the way, starting from the very beginning by encouraging her to cook.
Midway through the book, however, the tone changed and became somewhat negative. Julia took several opportunities to criticize Simone ("Simca") Beck, her “French sister” and co-author of Mastering the Art of French Cooking. It seemed petty, as if she wanted to inform the reader that she did the majority of the work. Even worse, she didn’t even have the courage to own it. She often cowardly communicated the criticism through the voice of her husband, e.g., Paul says that Simca isn’t doing her fair share, Paul expressed concerns that I’m doing most of the work, etc.
Of course, she did have positive things to say about many people, including Simca. And, frankly, at 92 I think she just didn't give a ratatouille. Also, she died before the book was finished so in fairness it could have just been the way it was written by her nephew and/or edited.
After reading this book, I would have loved to have read My Life with Julia by Simca Beck. A book we'll never know as Simca died before Julia.
Addendum: I’d like to add that I saw the movie Julie & Julia, and the hits just keep on coming. This time the film was used as an opportunity to slam Irma Rombauer and The Joy of Cooking (which I happen to think is a very good cookbook, but I’m not being biased). Like Simca Beck, Ms. Rombauer is dead. Tacky! Now that Julia is too, perhaps it’s time for her so-called friends to tell nasty stories about her?!