Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Review of the Day: My Life in France

My Life in France is Julia Child’s memoir of her years living in Paris, Marsails, and Provence; her tutelage under French chefs; her “cookery-bookery” with Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle; and her general love affair with la belle France. Written in collaboration with Alex Prud’homme, the book reads like a chatty letter from an old friend.

Child was in her 30s when she married her husband Paul and they moved to post-war Paris, where he had a job with the United States Information Service. No cook before her wedding, Child’s love of French food led her to enroll at Le Cordon Bleu, the legendary cooking school, which was a little down at the heel after WWII, but still managed to launch America’s most famous chef.

While in Paris, Child hooked up with Beck and Bertholle and the three began work on what eventually was titled Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Vol. I. It took 13 years from original conception to publication in 1961. Child and Beck spent another nine years completing Volume II. In the meantime, the Childs had moved back to America, settling in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Child had started a cooking show for PBS – quite a creative leap for someone who had not even owned a television set until 1962 or so. They maintained their connections with France by keeping a second home in Provence.

What makes the book so appealing is Child’s exuberance. Even when she wrote the book in her late-80s, shortly before she passed away in 2004, she showed an enthusiasm for food, cooking, and her husband that brings energy to every page.


I am posting this review on my birthday (not my blog birthday, my real one) because I love celebrating my birthday and this book is a great party of a book.

This book was the basis for the better half of the Julie and Julia movie. My review of Julie and Julia, the book, is here.

There is a gorgeous, boxed edition of both volumes of MTAFC. If I didn't already have both books, that set would be at the tip-top of my wishlist.



(If you would like your review listed here, please leave a comment with a link and I will add it.)


  1. I got to see her kitchen at the Smithsonian while I was in DC and you can see her passion because she had one busy kitchen!

  2. Nicole -- I didn't even know that her kitchen was in the Smithsonian until I saw the J&J movie. Now I want to go see it for myself! I also want to watch her old shows -- I wonder if I can get them from Netflix? But I know that you don't care for French food, so you probably haven't paid attention. :)

  3. I am a Francophile. I love to pick up A Year in Provence and dream. I also love My French Life by Vicki Archer, its kind of a coffee table book with beautiful photos, and A Year of Style by Frederik Fekkai, it's years old but still stylish. And of course there's reading Collette.
    But if I'm going to go somewhere for the food its Italy.

  4. I loved this book. Julia Child never for one minute sounded like someone whose success had gone to her head as you read the book. She came across to me as someone very grounded, who really loved what she did, loved France and her husband. Her passion for her profession is so inspirational to me.

  5. Happy birthday! My husband read this and loved it, but I haven't had a chance to get to it yet.

  6. Happy Birthday and more happy reading!

  7. Happy birthday! And great review! I'm glad I found your blog -- I'll definitely be following along and adding you to my blogroll.

    I'd love to pick up this book. Cooking is something I've only just begun to get the hang of, and after seeing Julie & Julia I went out and made some snowy day boeuf bourguignon! Haha. I have a rather busy list this year, but hopefully I'll make it around to both Julie & Julia and My Life in France.

  8. Happy Birthday! My lIfe in France has been on my wish list for far too long... and Julie & Julia arrived from Netflix today.

  9. Thanks for all the comments and good wishes. I'm traveling for work today (not a great way to spend my birthday, I have to say), and the internet connection is hit or miss, so I am not going to risk trying to respond individually. Best to turn off the computer and open my book.

    Quite a celebration!

  10. Happy birthday & I do love this book. I thought it was so inspiring!

  11. I loved this book too!

    I so wish I could afford to buy MTAFC. :-(

    There are selected early shows of hers available on DVD. I rented some from Unfortunately, they weren't dated and you could tell by the kitchens she used, her ease in front of the camera and so on, that they jumped around a lot date-wise.

  12. Autodidact -- I've read the Year in Provence book(s), but not the others you mention. Not only am I going to try to find them, I am going to add them to my French Connections list. I love reading about France. You read France, eat Italy. I read France, eat everything. :)

    SocrMom -- You summed her up perfectly. She was very level headed and happy. That comes through so much. And she and her husband are an inspiration.

    Eileen -- Thanks for visiting! Snowy days do inspire braising, that's for sure.

    JoAnn -- I preferred the J&J movie to the J&J book by a mile.

    Debbie -- Thanks for the dvd info. I'll look for them. As for the books, I suspect that once this wave of popularity fades a bit, the new editions will start making there way to library books sales. :) My favorite source for books. That's where I found Vol. 2 about five years ago -- before the J&J craze hit.

  13. I agree, Julia's exuberance made this book sing for me. What a woman!

    Happy birthday!

  14. I read this book after Julie & Julia and liked it so much better.

    Last summer, I stumbled upon Julia's kitchen at the Smithsonian. So glad I got to see it.

  15. Here's the link to my review of this - it was a winner!


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