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Summary and book reviews of My Life in France by Julia Child

My Life in France

by Julia Child, Alex Prud'Homme

My Life in France
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  • First Published:
    Apr 2006, 336 pages
    Paperback:
    Oct 2007, 368 pages

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Book Summary

The story of Child's growth from a naive newleywed into a great cook and one of the best and most influential teachers of the twentieth century.

In her own words, here is the captivating story of Julia Child's years in France, where she fell in love with French food and found 'her true calling.'

From the moment the ship docked in Le Havre in the fall of 1948 and Julia watched the well-muscled stevedores unloading the cargo to the first perfectly soigné meal that she and her husband, Paul, savored in Rouen en route to Paris, where he was to work for the USIS, Julia had an awakening that changed her life. Soon this tall, outspoken gal from Pasadena, California, who didn't speak a word of French and knew nothing about the country, was steeped in the language, chatting with purveyors in the local markets, and enrolled in the Cordon Bleu.

After managing to get her degree despite the machinations of the disagreeable directrice of the school, Julia started teaching cooking classes herself, then teamed up with two fellow gourmettes, Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle, to help them with a book they were trying to write on French cooking for Americans. Throwing herself heart and soul into making it a unique and thorough teaching book, only to suffer several rounds of painful rejection, is part of the behind-the-scenes drama that Julia reveals with her inimitable gusto and disarming honesty.

Filled with the beautiful black-and-white photographs that Paul loved to take when he was not battling bureaucrats, as well as family snapshots, this memoir is laced with wonderful stories about the French character, particularly in the world of food, and the way of life that Julia embraced so wholeheartedly. Above all, she reveals the kind of spirit and determination, the sheer love of cooking, and the drive to share that with her fellow Americans that made her the extraordinary success she became.

Le voici. Et bon appétit!

Foreword

In August 2004, Julia Child and I sat in her small, lush garden in Montecito, California, talking about her life. She was thin and a bit stooped, but more vigorous than she'd been in weeks. We were in the midst of writing this book together. When I asked her what she remembered about Paris in the 1950s, she recalled that she had learned to cook everything from snails to wild boar at the Cordon Bleu; that marketing in France had taught her the value of "les human relations"; she lamented that in her day the American housewife had to juggle cooking the soup and boiling the diapers—adding, "if she mixed the two together, imagine what a lovely combination that would make!"

The idea for My Life in France had been gestating since 1969, when her husband, Paul, sifted through hundreds of letters that he and Julia had written his twin brother, Charles Child (my grandfather), from France in 1948–1954. Paul suggested ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Reading the memoir of this feisty "rather loud and unserious" six-foot-two Californian is a huge pleasure, and the photographs of France and the French, mostly taken by her husband, are exceptional. It's so easy to assume that success comes to famous people easily, but this impression is quickly corrected when reading of the extraordinary efforts she went through for nine years, before Mastering the Art of French Cooking was eventually published in 1961, when she was about 49 years old.   (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).

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Media Reviews

New York Times - Alan Riding

Read no further if you dislike France, consider the French irritating, find French cooking pretentious and the French art de vivre overrated — because Julia Child liked everything about France. And her memoir, My Life in France, is an affectionate merci for all that France gave her.

Publisher's Weekly

This is a valuable record of gorgeous meals in bygone Parisian restaurants, and the secret arts of a culinary genius.

Kirkus Reviews

Charming, idiosyncratic and much fun-just like its author, who is very much alive in these pages.

Booklist - Mark Knoblauch

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.

Reader Reviews

MJH

MY LIFE IN FRANCE
First I thought this would be a nice book to glance through. I soon discovered I could not miss a word. Julia Child's personality came through on every page. She was not just a talented gourmet chef but a delightful, wonderful...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Julia Child was born in Pasadena, California. She graduated from Smith College and worked for the OSS during World War II in Ceylon and China, where she met Paul Child. After they married they lived in Paris, where she studied at the Cordon Bleu and taught cooking with Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle, with whom she wrote the first...

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