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French Milk [Paperback]

Lucy Knisley
3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

September 2000
A place where young Americans can seek poetic magic in the winding streets of a beautiful city. The museums, the cafés, the parks. An artist like Lucy can really enjoy Paris in January. If only she can stop griping at her mother. This comic journal details a mother and daughter¿s month-long stay in a small apartment in the fifth arrondissement. Lucy is grappling with the onslaught of adulthood. Her mother faces fifty. They are both dealing with their shifting relationship. All the while, they navigate Paris with halting French and dog-eared guidebooks.

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Product Description


"A keenly observed letter back home...the pleasure Knisley takes in food and company is infectious." -- Douglas Wolk, slate

"Charming." -- Publishers Weekly

"Wonderful....Read it and you will not be disappointed." -- Whitney Matheson, Usa Today --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

Lucy Knisley is a recent graduate of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and currently attends the Center for Cartoon Studies. During the month and a half she spent in Paris she estimates that she ate approximately sixty croissants, more than four hundred cornichons, and a metric ton of chocolate mousse. Born and raised in New York, she now lives in Chicago.

Visit for more information. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

3.2 out of 5 stars
3.2 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Fun book April 25 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Fun book to read (before bed). The dialogue was cute and the drawings were fun.
It's a comic style/illustrated journal of the author's time in Paris.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A wonderfully engaging story! Oct. 30 2012
By AliKira
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book is really neat, a story that shows how perception changes through travel. I really liked the fact that she talked about everything through her characters, from the mundane to the marvelous and everything in between. This is truly a story that is worth exploring!
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It is a very interesting way of making a travel's journal or any kind-of-journal for events in life.
I love the structure.

But it misses deepness in the writings.

This is a travel of one month in Paris the author made with her mother, a few months before graduating. She turned 22 during the trip.

The author give hints that her life will changes, now that she is entering adulthood more precisely, but we never read or see real drawing of theses questions.

Really, this diary became more of a notebook of what they ate, where they shop and museums they saw. It got boring at a certain point.

2 stars for the structure of the book, it's the first one I see like this and would like to see more people talking about life events using this method, but zero stars for the story. Too much unnecessary anecdotal details in it.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The skilled appear effortless... Nov. 30 2008
To celebrate milestone birthdays, Lucy Knisley and her mother spend 6 weeks in a rented apartment in the heart of Paris.

At it's core, French Milk is essentially a travel journal of experiences, sights, smells (and often tastes) of her Parisian meanderings, similar to Carnet de Voyage by Craig Thompson. Photographs are scattered like foils amongst Lucy''s dynamic brush strokes - line work that gives her illustrations a whimsical, effortless naivety that belies the obvious dedication and commitment to her skill development.

I would have liked to see more connection to Lucy''s internal experience - more attention paid to the reflection and resonance of her perceptions as opposed to the surface recording of events. The richest moments of storytelling were not in Paris at all, but the authentic threads woven at her childhood home.

This should not be seen as a negative but as an indication of how deep and connected Lucy Knisley can still travel, considering that French Milk is her creative offering at the youthful blush of 22. Much more can be expected from Lucy Knisley - she''s fun, she''s kooky, she draws super swell and even though I didn''t really want to - she made me care a little bit about Paris.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.7 out of 5 stars  54 reviews
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Paris here I come Oct. 25 2008
By Elaine M. Sargent - Published on
I am very interested in travel, anything French especially Paris as I have not yet been and have always been interested in comics and cartooning so this book was a real treasure to find. I liked the simple style and also the musings on everyday things in life. I felt like I was on this trip with Lucy and her mom. I am planning on using it as a bit of travel guide, for when I finally make my trip, also as a mother/daughter team. I would love to read more books by about one set in NYC - my favorite place in the world!
26 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Charming Paris Mother/Daughter Travelogue Nov. 3 2008
By Rachel Kramer Bussel - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The Glass Castle author Jeannette Walls once told me that memoir should be universal, and I've kept that in mind ever since when I read them. What I think she meant is that while a memoir is specific to the storyteller in the details, anyone should be able to relate to it, somehow. As I read Lucy Knisley's French Milk, I was struck by her storytelling, but also her age, use of photography, and that I could never write such a book, though I too have traveled to Paris with my mother.

The fact that her divorced parents are on good terms, a fact she casually drops in, resonated with me, especially when her father comes to join them for a brief visit during their six-week trip. This would never happen in my divorced family, and it made me, briefly, jealous--again, this goes back to Walls's maxim; my life circumstances may not be the same as Knisley's, but hers caused me to reflect on my own. She also exhibits a particular pride and faith in her work (with the occasional doubts), one that I still struggle with in my early thirties. Her dedication to her art and the creation of this book are apparent. Other moments are brief but powerful, such as going up the Eiffel Tower on a particularly windy day, where Knisley writes, "You could feel the tower move in the wind and see the birds blown off course."

I was torn as to the value of the photographs she included; at first, I thought there was something unfair about it, but then I came upon one of her kissing a wall and realized there was no other way to capture that moment, at least, not so thoroughly. The photos are used sparingly, without comment, filling in gaps in her story, fleshing them out and creating what feels more like an intimate scrapbook than a memoir, albeit an accessible one.

French Milk is a travelogue, and as such, sometimes the details of each meal become less interesting toward the end. But it's Knisley's personality, and little details that make this book so charming, whether it's the odd characters she meets or her feeling low on a particular day or railing against a piece of bad art, going so far as to name the artist, who's made a rendition of Paris Hilton, by name.

I finished the book a bit jealous of Knisley's closeness with her mother, and impressed that she managed to finesse both the details and the bigger picture, a portrait of a young woman just starting out in "the real world," but taking a detour to a city full of pastries, lush dinners, cemeteries, art and adventure before she does so. French Milk will appeal to Americans who've, like Knisley, fallen for Paris, and those looking to recapture their college traveling days. As for me, I'm giving a copy to my mom, and hope that our travels are as fruitful.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Lovely graphic travel memoir Dec 3 2009
By BermudaOnion - Published on
Lucy Knisley and her mother spent January of 2007 in a Paris apartment to celebrate Lucy's mother's 50th birthday (and Lucy's 22nd.) They rented a small apartment in the 5th arrondissement. Lucy had one more semester of college and hoped to go to graduate school for cartooning. While she was in Paris with her mother, she kept a journal and her book, FRENCH MILK is the result of that journal.

FRENCH MILK is a quick read, since it's a graphic travel memoir. It does include photographs as well as drawings, which I found unique. I was hooked as soon as Lucy mentioned Tintin and Milou, since our sweet dog is named after Milou.

We lived in France fifteen years before Lucy's trip, and we never lived in Paris, but this book still brought back lots of memories for me. This book is named after Lucy's love of French milk - she said it came in bottles and was very fresh. I found this interesting, because the only milk we ever saw in France came in a box - it was pretty nasty and most people wouldn't drink it.

This book was a lot of fun and I think anyone who loves Paris or who would love to visit Paris will enjoy it.
29 of 38 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Completely Underwhelming April 8 2009
By bluwhisper - Published on
I love memoir, travel writing, and graphic novels, so I thought I'd enjoy this book. The problem, as another review noted, is that there isn't much substance here.

Instead of insightful reflections on her experience, this book briefly recounts Knisley's daily banalities. Not that journals can't be fascinating--graphically, the form was put to good use by Phoebe Glocker in the fictional "Diary of a Teenage Girl." But in "French Milk", the supposedly charming observations about Paris, food, and mother-daughter relationships that the book blurbs promise are either sparse, ham-handed, or shallow. This is the Paris of francophilic tourists--the Eiffel tower, art museums, shopping, food-- and not an illuminating encounter with a complex metropolitan center or its people.

Neither the text, the illustrations, or the photographs work at a sophisticated level themselves, and they don't come together well either, since I found the inclusion of the photographs jarring and distracting.

To do this type of writing well, an author needs to carefully manage the relationship between individual personal experience and the larger significance of it, especially if the story itself is not compelling. And this book doesn't manage to do that. Gabrielle Bell's "Lucky," a chronicle of apartment hunting, low paying jobs, and artistic exploration in Brooklyn is a much better autobiographical piece by a young aspiring cartoonist.

I found myself frustrated with Knisley by the end of the book, both in the triviality of her problems, and for wasting my time on a narrative so unfocused that it was a bit like the misery of being subjected to someone's travel slide show.

Occasionally the book succeeds at being cute-ish and whimsical, but not always, and the tongue-in-cheek moments aren't enough to save the book. If Knisley eventually becomes a famous cartoonist, this will be a curious artifact of her past. But on its own merits, I would give it a pass.
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Cute and Artistic but Lacks Depth Sept. 1 2010
By C. J. Pearmon - Published on
I picked up this book because it incorporated photographs with the standard graphic novel. The artwork and unique manner of incorporating drawings and photographs are top-notch.

However, the story of the author and her mother spending a month in Paris really doesn't go anywhere. There's lots of writing about the food and visiting various sites. However, the author getting depressed and stressed while on vacation was annoying. Let's see, you have rich parents who can afford to take you to Paris for a month and you are going to lay around whining about your life. Smacks of pampered privilege to me, which I'm not interested in reading about.

Despite that, however, the art makes for a decent story about a month in Paris, although nothing is exactly ground-breaking.
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