A Life in France
Knopf (2005). 336 pp.
I am reading My Life in France by Julia Child. It’s sweet and warm and full of delicious buttery goodness, with a little spice thrown in for good measure. I remember in the movie The Holiday, Arthur Abbott (the old man Kate Winslet’s character helps out) reminisces on the old movies where the women had “gumption.” I love that word. Gumption. And I couldn’t help but be reminded of this movie, and this word, as I’m reading this book.
I remember Julia Child vaguely from television. Of course I knew who she was, but I wasn’t an avid watcher of hers as a child. My love for her grew after watching Julie and Julia (I found its sequel while at the Borders’ closeout sale, but sadly not the original itself). And, given my recent penchant for memoirs, I downloaded it and began to read.
I’m only two chapters in, but already I’ve found two passages that I can’t help but release to the “masses” (twelve, or so). The first is from Julia herself, right there in the first pages:
Travel, we agreed, was a litmus test: if we could make the best of the chaos and serendipity that we’d inevitably meet in transit, then we’d surely be able to sail through the rest of life together just fine. So far, we’d done pretty well.
I love the relationship between Paul and Julia. They’re a snappy couple, to be sure, and the joy for the life that they shared screams out of the page. This is the marriage the Paul Morel’s mother wanted in Sons and Lovers, but I think the main difference between Paul/Julia and Gertrude is that Paul and Julia are open minded to what life has to offer. Gertrude knew what she wanted, and she was unhappy when she didn’t get it. I don’t think the Childs had any expectations of Paris. They went, they ate, they drank, and they conquered. Life met them there.
This second passage is a description of Paris from Paul to his twin brother, Charles. They wrote back and forth often–many of these letters played a large part in the structure of this book:
“Lipstick on my belly button and music in the air–that’s Paris, son,” Paul wrote his twin, Charlie. “What a lovely city! What grenouilles a la provencale. What Chateauneuf-du-Pape, what white poodles and white chimneys, what charming waiters, and poules de luxe, and maitre d’hotel, what gardens and bridges and streets! How fascinating the crowds before one’s cafe table, how quaint and charming and hidden the little courtyards with their wells and statues. Those garlic-filled belches! Those silk-stockinged legs! Those mascara’d eyelashes! Those electric switches and toilet chains that never work! Hola’! Dites donc! Bouillabaisse! Au revoir!“
If I only spoke French …
Seriously, though, who writes like that? And where can I find one? And who wouldn’t want to visit Paris after such a rousing endorsement?