Thursday, May 13, 2010

Review: Du lait, s’il vous plait.


After reading a few comments and reviews of Lucy Knisley’s graphic memoir French Milk, I had some serious doubts as to how much I would actually enjoy it. I thought I would just find it self-centered and full of insignificant details. (Do I really care what she bought or what she ate while on vacation in Paris?) Yet, I was drawn to it anyway, and I ended up really enjoying it.

A brief synopsis: Lucy and her mom spend several weeks living in a quaint (and slightly bizarre) apartment in Paris’ fifth arrondissement. Lucy’s mom is celebrating her 50th birthday and Lucy is, well, not really celebrating anything. She’s about to graduate from college, applying to grad programs for cartooning, and having a general freak-out about life. Her drawings serve as a travelogue of their stay—illustrating they places they visited, the food they ate, the people they met, and the things they bought—and a bit as diary of her own thoughts.
First off, whoever wrote the synopsis for the back of this book was way off. Aside from the nit-picky fact that she did not, in fact, spend six weeks in Paris (December 24—January 25 is not six weeks, right????), the blurb describes this as “moving, personal look at a mother-daughter relationship.” If anything, this was a story of a girl struggling to deal with growing up and entering the real world. Aside from the mere mention that both Lucy and her mother were on this trip, there was nothing significant that could classify this as a moving mother-daughter story. Nothing. So don’t read this expecting one.
Scan from One Swede Read.
I did really enjoy Lucy’s cartoon style. She’s great with using facial and body expressions to convey a mood. And this memoir sure gave her a lot of practice drawing food. Her style reminds me a lot of Craig Thompson (Blankets). I also liked her narrative of the pre-graduation freak-out. I can certainly relate (my own final semester of Senior year was full of anxiety and panic attacks), and verbalizing those feelings really really really really helps. I actually enjoyed her drawings so much that I’ve continued to explore her career, and I’m glad to see that she’s been pretty successful—she maintains a pretty fabulous blog and a very thorough website.
This one’s a fun read that just inspired me to discover more graphic novels. Also, she references (and draws!) Arrested Development, which automatically makes you a much cooler person.


Aarti said…

I haven't been able to find this book in any of the bookstores I frequent, though it seems quite well-liked, generally! I really like that you shared some of the panels with us as well!

Meg said…

Glad you enjoyed this one, too — I actually thought it was fascinating! Loved the incorporation of her real trip photos and her artwork, which was really fun. Even just in black and white, the food descriptions and drawings had me salivating!

And you're totally right: I would classify French Milk more as a coming-of-age story than anything. The mother/daughter dynamic really wasn't a big focus.

Nicole said…

I have read other reviews of this that seem to be a little lukewarm. I have just started exploring graphic novels, so I am always on the lookout for good ones. By far the best one that I have read has been Bayou, which is so interesting but very dark. I'll look for this one. Oddly enough, I love the title!

Kari said…

I've just picked up a couple more graphic memoirs from the library…you're the one I credit with starting this interest in the first place! (Your review of Blankets inspired me to read it, though I didn't love it as much as you did.)

Aarti — That's what the library is for, right?? 😉

Nicole — What are some of your favorites you've discovered? I just started exploring them, too.

infiniteshelf said…

Great review! I'm interested by this one, especially after having had the chance to spend one week in Paris recently. I loved Blankets, so I'll definitely be reading this one too.

Aarti : Have you tried the Book Depository? I know they have it there, so if they ship to where you live, you could actually have it in your hands. If not, then maybe the library!

Chris said…

I read this about a year ago when I was just trying out graphic novels and loved it. It made me want to go to Paris and live there for a few months.