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Review: French Milk

french milkTitle: French Milk
Lucy Knisley
Memoir (format — comic)
Acquired: Library
Rating: ★★★☆☆

One Sentence Summary: On the eve of her 22nd birthday, Lucy Knisley and her mother take a month-long vacation to Paris where Lucy keeps this diary.

One Sentence Review: French Milk is a unique comic diary/memoir, but doesn’t really have an action-driven plot to speak of (which is fine, just needed to put it out there).

Long Summary: When Lucy Knisley was almost 22, she and her mom took a six week trip to Paris, France. They rented a small, oddly furnished flat, then used it as a base to explore the city. They ate lots of delicious French food, took in the sites, and shopped around the city. There was also some mother/daughter relationship stuff, some young woman trying to figure out her life stuff, and some people missing home stuff.

Wow, that’s probably the worst summary in the history of book blogging!

Long Review: Despite my lackluster book summary, I did really enjoy French Milk. As a narrator and writer, Lucy is warm, funny, and self-deprecating. She appreciates the sites and sounds of Paris, but isn’t afraid to share when she’s upset, missing home, or feeling frustrated with her vacation. That sort of honesty was nice, and kept the book from being too sappy or cliched (especially given the other memoir I read recently).

I have always, always wanted to keep the sort of diary that Lucy keeps while in Paris. She mixes observations about culture, food, and herself with comic drawings and photos that capture a whole sense of what her trip was like. I, sadly, am a miserable artist, so often resort to writing and scrapbooking to approximate anything this cool.

french milk pageThe drawing style is sparse, but also quite funny. I love the way she uses black and white, simple lines, to give a sense of scene and movement. The sparseness of the drawing also emphasizes this is a diary, almost practice drawings, that she just scrawled while laying on her bed or sitting at a cafe with a baguette.

Another feature of the drawings that I love are the arrows and commentary she includes. You get a strong sense of her personality through these notes, almost like another Lucy commenting on what the main Lucy is doing.

The thing is, not a lot happens in the book. Lucy and her mom go to Paris, they explore, they get homesick, they have a good time, and then they come home. There are tons of pictures of shopping and food and whatnot, but this isn’t the sort of memoir that moves along because of action that’s happening. If you’re expecting exciting plot points or tons of action, you’ll probably be a little disappointed.

But if you’re expecting a sweet and funny comic diary about a girl going to Paris and getting to do all the awesome things you would do if you got to be a six-week temporary inhabitant of the city, then you’ll enjoy this book. I certainly did.

Other Reviews: Beth Fish Reads; My Cozy Book Nook; The Boston Bibliophile; Pop Culture Junkie; Lakeside Musing; A Striped Armchair;

If you have reviewed this book, please leave a link to the review in the comments and I will add your review to the main post. All I ask is for you to do the same to mine — thanks!

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Beth F October 27, 2009, 6:50 am

    I thought the memoir was super — I loved that she did not make herself out to be perfect. I’ve traveled with 22-year-old young women (girls) before and they do get moody and pine for their boyfriends, even when surrounded by a place as great as Paris.

    • Kim October 30, 2009, 11:59 am

      Beth: I totally agree; it was her imperfections that made the memoir come alive.

  • Jenny October 27, 2009, 7:13 am

    I can say, when traveling at Lucy’s age (or a bit younger actually), I was definitely moody even when we were in London, my favorite place in the world. I enjoyed this memoir so much – glad you did too!

    • Kim October 30, 2009, 12:00 pm

      Jenny: I went to London when I was 20 and I loved it. But yeah, I got homesick and shed some tears and pined after people I missed. I’d do the same thing now 🙂

  • Eva October 27, 2009, 10:37 am

    I agree with you as to the book’s strengths and weaknesses! And I TOTALLY wish I could sketch for the same reason! *sigh* I like to collage things in my journals, hehe.

    • Kim October 30, 2009, 12:01 pm

      Eva: I’ve always wanted to be able to sketch. I carry a notebook around with me for quotes and other things I find, but I never draw in it because I’m terrible. I collage a lot though, I like to think I’m good at that 🙂

  • Kathy October 27, 2009, 12:58 pm

    I think I would enjoy this since we lived in France. I’ll have to look for it.

    • Kim October 30, 2009, 12:01 pm

      Kathy: She goes to a lot of traditional sorts of French things, so I bet you would really appreciate that, having live there.

  • Kailana October 27, 2009, 2:45 pm

    This looks interesting, but my library doesn’t have it… One day I will read it!

    • Kim October 30, 2009, 12:02 pm

      Kailana: I was a little surprised mine had it, but glad they did. I hope you can find a copy eventually 🙂

  • Jeanne October 27, 2009, 4:35 pm

    This sounds like it would be a fun way to remember some of the details about our trip to Paris this summer.

    • Kim October 30, 2009, 12:02 pm

      Jeanne: Absolutely! She does a fabulous job drawing and describing french food — I was craving baguettes after I finished.

  • Andi October 27, 2009, 8:46 pm

    I’ve wanted to get my hands on this book for quite a while now, and my library doesn’t have it! I’m seeing reviews of it everywhere, and it’s such a tease. I really like the drawing style, so I might just have to spring for a copy of my own.

    • Kim October 30, 2009, 12:03 pm

      Andi: That’s too bad, such a tease! I love the style too — it’s matches well with the tone of the book.

  • softdrink October 27, 2009, 9:57 pm

    I’m always jealous of people that keep those cool sketch/word journals, too! I can barely draw a stick figure.

    I need to read this…I love reading about people living overseas, but I haven’t read any graphic novel travel memoirs. I’m guessing this is pretty much the only book in that genre.

    • Kim October 30, 2009, 12:04 pm

      softdrink: Me too! Drawing is not among my many talents 😉 I think you’re right — I can’t think of any other travel memoirs that are comics. There must be some though?

  • Rebecca Reid November 1, 2009, 7:07 am

    I’m not a huge fan of memoirs but graphic memoirs always interest me more — you see a different aspect of the people. And I’d love to go to France, personally!

    • Kim November 9, 2009, 10:07 am

      Rebecca: I’d love to go to France too — it seems like such fun! This was a very quick read, so it might be nice as another try at a graphic memoir.

  • JoAnn November 2, 2009, 5:31 am

    Great review. I was really struck by the concept of a graphic travel memoir – such a creative thing to do! Of course, the fact the that I am the world’s worst artist added to my appreciation. She was able to convey so much through simple drawings… Thanks for the link love.

    • Kim November 9, 2009, 10:08 am

      JoAnn: Yeah, I loved the concept as well, and appreciated the artwork. Like I said, the idea of it was something I’ve always wanted to do but never quite had the skill for.

  • Dawn - She is Too Fond of Books November 8, 2009, 4:57 pm

    I added this to my wishlist back when Beth Fish reviewed it. Maybe it will show up in my Christmas stocking …

    I don’t know of any other graphic travel memoirs, BUT, I’d be happy to write one, if any tour company would sponsor it 🙂 (full FTC disclosure, of course)

    • Kim November 9, 2009, 10:08 am

      Dawn: This would be a fun Christmas gift 🙂 I can’t think of any other books that fall into the same niche as this one, but I’m certainly on the look out. I’ll post about it if I ever find one. (Or, you know, grab a cartoonist and go on a trip together to write one ourselves!)