Tuesday, August 19, 2008

My Life in France

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?!


The Late Bloomer said...

Hey Amy! Just a quick note as I got back from the Atlantic Coast yesterday and I'm trying to catch up on some blog reading while Emma is "behaving" (ha ha!) in her transat beside me (and in between feedings!)... I've had this book in my to-be-read pile for ages, and I meant to read it during my pregnancy, and just never got around to it. I know that another Amy, on the blog Chitlins & Camembert, also loved this book, so now I'm determined to getting around to reading it!

But for the moment, I hardly have time to read two lines much less a book, so it may very well have to wait a bit... the only reading I've done since Emma was born was in the car yesterday on our drive back, while Emma was sleeping -- and I usually can't read in cars! Makes me a bit carsick... as a matter of fact, I had a bit of a headache afterwards, but I was determined to finish David Sedaris' latest book, especially since his last piece in the book, "The Smoking Section", was particularly hilarious!

In any case, just wanted to drop by and say hi... We've got to try to finally meet up soon! Maybe you can come visit when you have some free time in a few weeks.

Biz, Alice

P.S. ~ The reading and lounging vacation time in Normandy sounds like heaven! And that is one gorgeous garden (the perfect setting for reading!).

Jonnifer said...

Hey, I picked up My Life in France after reading your review and just finished it. I loved it. Good recommendation!

LaRicaine said...

Funny...I too am an American spending the year in France, and reading more books in English than I did while living in the US! I think it may have something to do with the fact that I'm a French Lit student, taking a year off...but I particularly wanted to say something because I just finished reading "My Life in France". I can't wait to try making mayonnaise! (although French people tell me it's easy...) it sounds like you're a great cook already.
I'd love to have feedback on what you like and dislike about France (I have a blog called "la ricaine's cocktail hour" where you can answer some questions if you want), and I'll keep checking yours to see what you're eating! And now to find MY french husband...Au revoir!