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Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page 44.
- Review Date: 2008-09-22
- Reviewer: Staff
For her 22nd birthday—and her mother's 50th—Lucy Knisley and her mother went to Paris. For more than a month, they toured the City of Lights from their fifth arrondissement flat, exploring museums and cafes, taking photographs, eating pastries and drinking French milk, which Knisley says is sweeter than its American counterpart; she compares it with the “influence we take in from our mothers.” Knisley's first book is unquestionably a travel journal first and foremost: Lucy-the-writer is so close to Lucy-the-subject that at times the story lacks background and emotional complexity. But as a travel journal French Milk shines. Knisley's photographs from the trip punctuate sketches of her daily adventures and musings about graduating from art school, first love and having an adult relationship with her mother. Best of all are Knisley's portraits of home at the beginning and end of the book, which capture her childhood home and college life lovingly but with clear eyes. Knisley's cartoony drawings are pleasingly clean in one panel and tellingly detailed in the next. A word-of-mouth hit when it first came out in a self-published limited edition, French Milk will remind readers of their own early trips to Europe and of traveling in their 20s. (Oct.)
Life au lait
You don't have to be an artist in the 1920s to find inspiration in Paris. As Lucy Knisley shows in French Milk, you can be an artist in your 20s, in 2007, and still find the City of Light a moving place. Knisley and her mom rented a Parisian apartment for a month to celebrate their respective birthdays: her mother turned 50, and Knisley turned 22. Knisley, an up-and-coming star in the comics world, kept a trip journal that combines her adorable sketches, evocative photographs and sharp observations of herself, her parents and her temporary home.
If Knisley had merely described the pleasures of Paris, the journal would still be worth reading, thanks to her eye for detail, her exultation in French food and her appreciation of the aesthetic delights of the city. But she goes further, bravely including her own moments of weakness: she gets grumpy with her mother, she feels inexplicably sad and lethargic despite her surroundings. The book, in other words, does what all good travelogues do: it traces the inner journey provoked by an outward one.
In the course of her staythanks to the city's art museums, over-the-top cookies (including a garlic one that received the "Grossest Cookie" award) and especially the extra-thick unpasteurized milkKnisley falls for Paris. She also discovers that she's happiest while working, and she arrives back home in Chicago excited to start her graduate-school art program, with a new appreciation for her life and friends. Her gentle humor and overall enthusiasm are part of what make this bookoriginally self-publishedsuch a charmer.