My Life in France Paperback – Oct 9 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
Famed chef Child, who died in 2004, recounts her life in France, beginning with her early days at the Cordon Bleu after WWII. Greenberg, an actress for radio and commercials, does a fine job capturing Child's joie de vivre and unmatched skill as a culinary animateur. We hear Child's delight and excitement when she discovers her calling as a writer and hands-on teacher of haute cuisine; her exasperation as yet another publishing house rejects her ever-growing monster of a manuscript; and her joy at its publication and acclaimed reception after more than a decade of work. Child's opinionated exuberance translates remarkably well to audio, from her initial Brahmin-like dismissal of the new medium of television (why would Americans want to waste a perfectly good evening staring into a box, she wondered?) and frustration at her diplomat husband being investigated in the McCarthy-driven 1950s to her ecstasy about roast chicken and mulish insistence on the one correct method to make French bread at home. The seamless abridgment has no jarring gaps or abrupt transitions to mar the listener's enjoyment. Potential listeners should beware, however: this is not a book to hear on an empty stomach. Bon appétit!
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
Knowing little about the country and less about its cooking, Child sailed to France with her new husband in 1948. Her first meal after debarking, a simple sauteed sole, opened to her (and to posterity) a new world. She began her French sojourn as the underemployed and ever-curious wife of a diplomatic officer, frustrated at being unable even to speak the language. Language classes led to cooking classes, then to partnering with Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle in an American book contract. Child's devotees know the basics of this story, but the details reveal the gradual education of Child's palate, her anti-McCarthy politics, her intense love for her husband, and her boundless capacity for hard work. Although Child died before this memoir compiled from her papers reached completion, her grandnephew Prud'homme proves a worthy editor. In seamlessly flowing prose, the text follows Child's growth as a cook into one of the best and most influential teachers of the twentieth century. Like Child herself, this memoir is earnest but never pedantic. Her eye for the ironic, her sense of humor, and her sharp sensitivity to the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and colors that surround her make lucid, lively reading. Mark Knoblauch
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
I first met Julia Child under unusual circumstances. My consulting firm was located down the street from where she got her hair done. Every Friday night, she would be seen peering into the windows to look at our art collection. After a few weeks of this, I walked outside and invited her in to tour the work up close. She was immediately studying everything from about three inches away. She thanked me politely and charged out the door. There was no hint of the slightly tipsy person filled with laughter who hosted The French Chef. Ah . . . I felt like I had met the real woman beneath the persona.
From that meeting, I gathered that she was a woman moved more than most by curiosity. I found myself also being curious about how she learned enough about French cooking to help co-author that masterwork, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Most French people in those days would not choose working with an American as a way to produce a work about France. That would be like putting salty Virginia ham into Quiche Lorraine.
My Life in France nicely filled in all the blanks for me. The book was lovingly finished by her grand-nephew, Paul Prud'homme, after Julia's death and is filled with lovely photographs produced by Julia's husband, Paul Child.
Here's the short version of the book. Julia had been in Asia for World War II as part of the OSS and met her husband there. He was ten years older than she was and well traveled . . . especially in France. After World War II, he joined the USIS (predecessor to the USIA) which played a friendly sort of propaganda function promoting American values and ways of doing things.Read more ›
Paul and Julia met in Ceylon where both worked for the Office of Strategic Services, and married in 1946. Two years later Paul was assigned to head the exhibits office of the U.S. Information Service in Paris. A painter and photographer who had been to France earlier he was well suited for the task. On the other hand, Julia had never been to Europe, came from a middle class, conservative California family and by her own description was "six-foot-two-inch, 36-year-old, rather loud and unserious." Little did she know what a life altering experience France would be.
She well remembers their first meal in Rouen which she described as "absolute perfection. It was the most exciting meal of my life." Thus began her love of French food, in fact for all things French - the markets, the people, the restaurants, the countryside. At that time she was an average cook at best but determined to learn how the French prepared such glorious food. To that end she learned the language and then enrolled at the famed Cordon Bleu. Surely no student has ever worked harder, more doggedly or found as much joy in food preparation as Julia. She wanted to know every infinitesimal detail of each dish, including the whys and wherefores of ingredients chosen, and variants in cooking time.
Eventually this devotion to French cuisine led to a partnership with two French friends (Simone Beck and Laced Bertholle) in a cooking school and from that to dreams of a cookbook for the American market.Read more ›
The book begins when she and her husband, Paul, make their first trip to France because of his new job assignment. You feel her giddy excitement upon landing on the shores of a place she had for so long desired to go. We hear in minute detail the look, smell and taste of her first French meal, and from there we are introduced to "La Belle France". Before I began the book, I wondered for how long I could sustain reading each night about a person's breakfast, lunch or dinner meal that had been eaten 50 years prior, but Julia has such an adorable way of speaking, and her sometimes child-like observations of life and people around her are so heartwarming, you just wish you had been there. As the book progresses, she speaks about her collaboration with two women for her first book, and sometimes the claws come out. You're thinking, "Julia!" But, as with all friendships, there are things that agree with us and things that don't. Without some of these tidbits, the book may have been too trite, or frankly boring. Subsequently, it was interesting to hear of the minor squabbles that occurred between the women and the simple controversies concerning her husband and his role as a "diplomat". Paul and Julia Child made many friends overseas, whom they adored and loved. The majority of these people stayed in her inner circle until the end of their lives. For me, night after night, I couldn't wait to sit down and read about so many dinner parties with simmering meats and side dishes, lovely conversations, and eccentric friends. The only thing I didn't like about the book is that it ended too quickly, and I found myself missing the evenings with Julia.
Most recent customer reviews
I love this book. Julia Child is a wonderful writer, completely pulls me in and makes me feel like I'm there with her.Published 19 months ago by Ana
What a wonderful book about Julia's time in France. If you seen the movie Julie and Julia you will want to read this book. Read morePublished 20 months ago by Chisa
If you are a fan of Julia Child, you should read this book. It encompasses her life and is really a great love story as well.Published on Dec 19 2013 by imsewfine
Child's book, it should be beyond surprise, reads rather like a cookbook. The reader is dizzied with untranslated French and long lists of French foods and left wondering if the... Read morePublished on Dec 13 2013 by Mohawked Reviewer
Had read the biography, Dearie by Bob Spitz and a friend suggested I read this as well. Well worth reading a second book on her life. Read morePublished on June 25 2013 by cleo
Thoroughly enjoyed reading about Julia's life in France. I was transported.
I chose this book because it is her own words and feelings telling this remarkable story.
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