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My Life in France is the most entertaining memoir I've read in 2006! It's a winner.

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. In November 1948, Paul landed a posting in Paris and Julia, the Pasadena, California bred daughter of a conservative businessman, was in for the surprises of her life. She fell in love with French food at her first meal! With no job in France, she began working on her language skills and learning how to cook (a new task for her!). Soon, she decided she wanted to go to Cordon Bleu. After some misadventures, she finally passed with some modest skills designed to help a homemaker rather than a chef. But she made friends with others who loved French food and eventually became acquainted with Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle. The latter two had an informal agreement to publish a book on French cooking for Americans. But they had just lost their American collaborator. Julia stepped in.

From there, much of the book recounts the decades of painstaking work that went into creating that first book and its follow-ons in which Julia played the role of making the recipes work in American kitchens with American ingredients and utensils. It's truly mind-boggling. My respect for her work is unlimited!

The book finishes with explaining how Mastering became a best seller and Julia became a television star.

Along the way, you'll meet her favorite food vendors, tutors, chefs and guests. She'll also delight you with her mouth-watering menus and how dishes turned out under different circumstances.

The title of the book is a little misleading. The material also covers time spent in Germany, Norway and the United States. You also get a full look at her marriage and the great joy that both Childs brought to their love.

Throughout, the book is filled with little Julia-isms in that humorous self-deprecating style that we all came to love on The French Chef. She lards the text with some piquant French phrases and quotes (which are usually translated more mildly into English).

As an author, I found her process of finding a publisher and working with publishers to be quite fascinating.

In her last decades, the book is a picture of grace as she devoted herself to her husband, her old friends and to French cooking.

Bon appetit!
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I bought this book after watching the excellent film Julie and Julia and being delighted and intrigued by Meryl Streep's portrayal of Julia Child. I wanted to know how realistic her picture of Julia was. I am delighted to say, from this wonderful memoir written by Julia and her nephew Alex Prudhomme at the end of her long and eventful life, that it was very true to life, or her life as it is portrayed here anyway. Child was deeply, wonderfully eccentric, larger than life and absolutely passionate about everything she did, not least her cooking. Married to a diplomat she travelled the world with him and ended up falling in love with post war Paris and its wonderful cuisine. The first half of the book recounts her years in Paris and Marseille and is told with love, vibrancy, colour and passion. The second half tells of her struggle to get her cookery bookery as she calls it published, and the growth of her television career, and finally her last years in France in Provence.

Funny, eccentric, delightful and a joy to read. I was sad when it was finished.
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Julia Child and the places you will go. Who knew, that this tall woman with the high voice that I saw on television was once filled with lust? This is the story of Julia and her husband Paul, how they met,when they met and their life ever after. What a fascinating woman. I know that if met her today, she would smile and greet me cheerily and off we would go into the world of food and cooking.

Julia and Paul met while they were in the OSS in Ceylon in 1946. They courted and married and moved to Paris where Paul was the Information Officer for the American Embassy. Their first meal was in Rouen, France and Julia had oysters, sole meunière, salad, cheese and coffee. This was the beginning of a love affair with food, France and Paul. Julia just adored France and she began exploring and cooking in her small Parisian kitchen. Eventually her cooking improved and she enrolled in the École du Cordon Bleu. This was an experience that changed her life. Food and France and her love for the people became her theme.

Julia loved to cook and to teach and she and a few friends started a cooking school. This led to writing the first book that fully explained the art of French Cooking. It took them a decade to write and find a publisher who appreciated their theme and writing, but it took off and soon they were in the third and then fourth printing. While on a book tour Julia and friends gave a lesson cooking. Soon, the local Cambridge PBS show asked her to film 3 shows and then an entire series. She was such a hit that the series went on and on and on.

In the meantime, Julia and Paul built a home in Provence near friends and spent many wonderful years. Paul became ill and died at the age of 92. Julia and her nephew, Alex Prud'homme, started writing this book and at the age of 92, Julia Child died after suffering a series of strokes.

This is an admirable book and a wonderful read. It is a not to be put down book and if you love good food and France, you too, will love this book. And thinking back on it now," she concludes, "reminds me that the pleasures of the table, and of life, are infinite -- toujours bon appétit!"

Recommended. prisrob 06-04-13
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on 8 February 2007
I could not put this book down. I have personally never owned any Julia Child cookbooks but had purchased the book as I knew she had gone to Le Cordon Bleu and I wanted to know how she had evolved into such a culinary powerhouse. What struck me most about the book was the matter of fact language, it wasn't romanticized at all, but showed how she fell into cooking in her middle age and how that evolved into something so much bigger. It was inspirational for me, as it shows that one doesn't need to have picked up cooking very early on (although this is normally better), but is something that can be learned and developed well into your later years with much dedication and pratice =)

Read it!
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on 8 April 2014
I had been to Paris a few times many years ago. I know this will be appalling to many, but those experiences left me not loving Paris. In fact, I would have been fine with never going back. Well, last Easter, my family and my sister in laws family went on a joint trip. After many hours of discussion, Paris was the agreed destination. I had to do something about my frame of mind before the trip! This book did it for me. Julia Childs has such a love for France and Paris, I couldn't help get excited about the trip. I ended up loving our trip to Paris. I even visited the Cordon Bleu cooking school just to have a look and ended up buying an apron from them. As an American living abroad for 3 years for work and a foodie myself, I immensely enjoyed this book. Very interesting story about the Childs life. Well written and hard for me to put down. Have recommended to several of my friends.
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on 31 July 2007
'My Life in France' is a superb book that effuses with that wonderful endearing quality we have all come to know and love in Julia Child. The book focuses mainly on the early years of developing her first cookbooks and television show.

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.
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on 23 June 2014
The book was well written and contained a lot of funny anecdotes, but I have to admit that I was also a tad annoyed by its frivolity. A large part of the book takes place in post-WWII Europe, and Ms. Child's "culinary adventures" in France contrast sharply with the lives/ reality of millions of normal French people at the time. However, Ms. Child never seems to give this any thought whatsoever, which left a bit of a stale taste behind, at least for me...
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on 2 December 2009
Whether you have seen 'Julie and Julia' or not, this is worth reading.

It is a good story with lots of suspense - even if you know that the book eventually gets published. There's much more, however, about life in the 1950s and its fascinating. You'll even get seduced into wondering what all these French recipes are really like.

Finally, it's beautifully written and a joy to read.
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on 2 February 2010
I bought this book after watching 'Julie and Julia' in the cinema. As I loved the film I was curious to find out more about Julia Child's life.
This book certainly gives a good insight into her life and you get a real feel of how passionate she was about food. However, this book gets a bit too foody at times, there are only so many descriptions about food she has eaten and cooked one can read without getting a bit bored!
If you are a serious food lover, you will love this book but if you expect the whit and fun of the film you might be a bit disappointed.
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VINE VOICEon 23 August 2010
Like some other reviewers, I picked this up having seen the very enjoyable film "Julie and Julia" as I wanted to know more about this extraordinary woman, Julia Child - more familiar to Americans than to us Brits. If British cookery has a bad reputation internationally, I think it fair to say that American cuisine suffers similarly (home of the Big Mac, Burger King and KFC!) so I wanted to find out how a cookbook with such a challenging name (Mastering the Art of French Cooking) became such a best-seller. The answer, of course, is the personality and enthusiasm of Julia Child which clearly won many admirers through her TV series, decades before Nigella!

The book itself is fascinating - particularly the early years spent in France where Julia suffers a good kind of culture shock when they eat their first meal in Rouen en route to Paris. I remember a similar incident in the same part of France where we were so bowled over by the quality of the food in an "average" restaurant that I will never forget it. That meal changed Julia's life - and the lives of thousands of others through her work.

Julia comes across as a strong-willed, energetic, perhaps even difficult person as she hints at differences of opinion with her collaborators. But perhaps it needs that sort of force of personality to succeed in a venture like that. Nevertheless, you cannot help but be swept along by her enthusiasm for France and its cuisine.

I have to say though that towards the end my interest started to flag somewhat. As with many "celebrity" memoirs, the early years (those formative years) of striving and struggle tend to be so much more interesting than the accounts of episodes following the achievement of success. More books, more TV programmes, and the desire to live quietly away from fans after all the years of being desperate for success. Such irony.

I recommend this to all those who are passionate about France and French cuisine. Less "foodie" types may find it somewhat wearing and tedious after a while. There is certainly a feel in places that the chapters are based on diary entries of meals eaten, places visited, and friends who shared those experiences.
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