Monday, January 23, 2012

Review: French Milk by Lucy Knisley

Title: French Milk
Author: Lucy Knisley
Publisher: Touchstone Books
Genre: Graphic Novels, Travel, Memoir
Rating: 3/5

Synopsis: Through delightful drawings, photographs, and musings, twenty-three-year-old Lucy Knisley documents a six-week trip she and her mother took to Paris when each was facing a milestone birthday. With a quirky flat in the fifth arrondissement as their home base, they set out to explore all the city has to offer, watching fireworks over the Eiffel Tower on New Year's Eve, visiting Oscar Wilde's grave, loafing at caf├ęs, and, of course, drinking delicious French milk. What results is not only a sweet and savory journey through the City of Light but a moving, personal look at a mother-daughter relationship.

Review: I just finished reading "French Milk" and came away with a strong feeling that this book could have been so much more than it was. Instead, it was very much "middle of the road" for me, with the one benefit of it being a very short read.

Knisley's travel diary is littered with photos and cute little drawings that recount her time in Paris with her mother. A large part of the book is spent talking about food. While food is such an essential component of Paris, I really felt that, due to Knisley's drawing style, the multitude of food pictures could have been totally left out. I mean, it all just looked like scribbles and triangles. I kind of felt like it was filler for the lack of a real, thoughtful experience that you'd expect from a diary of an American girl in Paris. There are glimpses, yes (such as Knisley's awareness of French men, and body issues as an American in super-skinny Paris) but they are gone a page later - leaving you wanting to know more.

The preface mentions that the book "also deals with the valuable and significant influence that we take in from our mothers" yet we see none of that in it's pages. Knisley's mother is a side-character that we don't really even get to know - definitely not enough to draw any ideas about the influence she has on her daughter.

One thing I did enjoy about the book was the format - a perfect mix of drawings, photos, and text. Maybe it's because I myself have always dreamed of going to Paris for a significant amount of time, but the book struck that envious chord in me. I'd recommend picking it up if you're a Francophile, but don't expect too much from it.

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