French Milk, by Lucy Knisley. Published 2007 by Simon & Schuster.
Click here to buy French Milk from your favorite indie bookstore.
French Milk is an autobiographical graphic novel by writer and illustrator Lucy Knisley, about six weeks she spent in Paris with her mother when she was 21. Told in journal form, it's a sweet and sentimental look at a special time in her life.
As the trip approaches, Lucy and her mother are each facing an important birthday- Lucy will be 22 and her mother will be 50. They arrive, set up house in a rented apartment, and proceed to enjoy the City of Lights to its fullest. The museums, the squares, the cafes, the shops- and above all, the food. The title, French Milk, refers to Lucy's favorite French food- the wonderful dairy, and throughout the book there are cute sketches and lively depictions of French food- foie gras, cornichons, various pastries and sweets, hot chocolate, and on and on. Knisley's pictures delve into the minutiae of everyday life and while her emphasis is more on recounting daily life than on drawing any great insights from her experiences, what emerges is a picture of a young woman enjoying her explorations and having fun.
Knisley draws the story in simple pen and ink line drawings, but her art is expressive and fun, and the writing is straightforward and light. Knisley punctuates her drawings with photos from the trip, showing people, animals, street scenes and of course herself and her family. The photos break up the (somewhat monotonous) one-panel-per-page pattern and give her story a certain timelessness as well. Knisley has a smart eye for detail and the pictures remind me of other simple, evocative pictures of Paris I've seen over the years.
Easily digested in two or three sittings, French Milk is a sweet, charming read about a likeable young woman on a trip with her mother, working her way towards adulthood but quite young and carefree still. It has a little swearing and some sexual references (as well as some depictions of nudity in art) so I would recommend it for older teens and young adults, and for Francophiles of any age. Reading it, I felt nostalgic for Paris and enjoyed indulging my love of all things French. It's a cute, fun book- chouette et amusant.
FTC Disclosure: I did not receive this book for review from the publisher.