My life in France

by Julia Child

Paper Book, 2007




New York : Anchor Books, 2007.


Here is the captivating story of Julia Child's years in France, where she fell in love with French food and found "her true calling." From the moment she and her husband Paul, who worked for the USIS, arrived in the fall of 1948, Julia had an awakening that changed her life. Soon this tall, outspoken gal from Pasadena, California, who didn't speak a word of French and knew nothing about the country, was steeped in the language, chatting with purveyors in the local markets, and enrolled in the Cordon Bleu. She teamed up with two fellow gourmettes, Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle, to help them with a book on French cooking for Americans. Filled with her husband's beautiful black-and-white photographs as well as family snapshots, this memoir is laced with wonderful stories about the French character, particularly in the world of food, and the way of life that Julia embraced so wholeheartedly. Bon appétit!--From publisher description.… (more)

Media reviews

For me, reading Julia Child’s memoir felt like going home.
1 more
"My Life in France," written with Alex Prud'homme, is Child's exuberant, affectionate and boundlessly charming account of that transformation. It chronicles, in mouth-watering detail, the meals and the food markets that sparked her interest in French cooking, and her growing appreciation of all things French."

User reviews

LibraryThing member cabegley
"This is a book about some of the many things I have loved most in life: my husband, Paul Child; la belle France; and the many pleasures of cooking and eating."

In 1948, Julia Child accompanied her husband Paul to his new U.S. Information Service posting in Paris. She didn't speak French and (surprisingly to me) she didn't really cook. But she was determined to get the most out of the opportunity she'd been given, so she immersed herself in the language, both by taking classes and by getting out into the city, especially its food markets, and talking with the natives. She also decided to take cooking lessons at the Cordon Bleu. Julia eventually started her own cooking lessons with two French friends, and the three of them decided to work on a book that would really teach Americans to cook French food, which had become Julia's passion. That book grew from a small volume of recipes her partners (Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle) had already written to the massive, 700+ page (and that was only Volume 1!) Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Back in the U.S. in the 1960s, a cooking demonstration on a Massachusetts public television show led to the first successful cooking show, The French Chef, and Julia became a public icon. (Today, you can visit an exact recreation of her home kitchen at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C.)

Julia Child was a big woman (6' 2") with a big personality, and her whole self really shines through in this memoir. I felt very much as if she was sitting next to me on the couch, telling me stories. In the quote at the top, Julia described her book to a T--the book is as much about a happy, passionate 50-year marriage, and about her love of France (the country and its people), as it is about food. Julia wrote this book with Paul's grandnephew, relying on the hundreds of letters the couple had written home throughout their stay in France. Paul is best known today as Julia Child's husband, but he was an artist and photographer who had photos in the Museum of Modern Art collection, and the book is enlivened by Paul's pictures throughout. (On a previous stay, pre-Julia, in France in the 1920s, Paul had worked on the stained-glass windows at the American Church in Paris. His willingness, despite lifelong vertigo, to climb up into the eaves to work on the high windows earned him the nickname "Tarzan of the Apse.")

A good companion read to this would be As Always, Julia: The Letters of Julia Child and Avis DeVoto. Julia and Avis struck up a pen-pal correspondence when Julia wrote a fan letter to Avis's husband (American historian Bernard DeVoto) regarding a column he'd written about how he hated stainless-steel knives. Avis was instrumental in getting Mastering the Art of French Cooking published, and that long and fascinating process, as well as Julia and Paul's experiences with McCarthyism (which led to their disillusionment with government work and their eventual return to private life), is covered in more detail in their letters than it was in My Life in France.

Julia died before this book was finished, and while I think Alex Prud'homme did an excellent job of maintaining Julia's voice throughout, the end feels a bit disjointed and rushed, but that didn't take away much from the pleasure of reading this book. Just one caution--don't read it on an empty stomach!
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LibraryThing member silverheron
My Life in France
ISBN: 978-0-307-47485-8
Julia Child with Alex Prud'homme
Anchor Books

As many of us have, I picked this book up at the bookstore because of the movie Julie and Julia. I had received a copy of "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" by chance and have found that, that cookbook has changed the way I cook.

This book is simply a memoir of, for the most part, how "Mastering" became. It is about Julia's life in France among other places and her views on the world. It is also the love story of Julia and Paul Child. Since I love to cook, I love France, and I love to hear about peoples lives this book is a natural for me. I was pleased to be able to connect many things I have experienced with experiences of Julia's.

Since reading this book I will never apologize when something I cook does not come out exactly right. (Easier said than done by the way) I also now plan to send more Valentines Day cards. Many things within it have left an impact on the way I see things.

This book I have to admit is not a page-turner. I did not find myself rushing through any thing in order to be able to get back to reading. I prefer to look at it more like so many cookbooks that I enjoy, a book to be wandered through a bit at a time. Isn't that what good cooking is all about anyway, taking your time and allowing the flavors to blend.

Bon Appetit
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LibraryThing member Kellswitch
This was a fun and very enjoyable book, anyone who is a fan of Julia Child should read it.

Julia Child has a wonderful written voice and has lived a fascinating life and this book deals with her time in France and how she developed her love of cooking and the work on her first cook book and developing the show The French Chef.

She does a great job of bringing her experiences and the people she knew to life and making you feel like you a part of it all and I really think she would have been a fun person to know and hang out with. Oddly though, I still have no interest in visiting Paris.
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LibraryThing member NellieMc
A beautiful presentation of how a not terribly well-educated, and not terribly sophisticated woman found and pursued her true calling, and in that way changed how people lived and ate and cooked, and contributed to much happiness. This may sound over the top, but if you believe cooking and feeding family and friends is a glorious and worthy art, then Julia Child's contribution can not be understated. This book presents, in her own words, how that happened and, as such, is a sociological history that is worthy to be read.… (more)
LibraryThing member BAP1012
I loved this book! It's several love stories in one single telling: Julia's life-long romance with her husband, Paul; her passion for France and its food; and her desire to understand French cuisine, dissected to it's most miniscule task. It was a pleasure to read and is filled with great photos taken by her husband during their life together in France. She's so candid and honest and shares things with the reader that others might hold back. As I read the book, I wished I knew her personally and had been able to visit her in France and eat at her table. Her positive outlook on life was inspiring.… (more)
LibraryThing member lynndp
The original idea for "My Life in France" came from Julia's husband Paul as he sifted through the hundreds of letters that he and Julia had written to Paul's twin brother Charles. Paraphrasing Julia's collaborator Alex Prud'Homme says, for one reason or another, the book never got written. Paul died in 1994 and Julia began to think of this book as a tribute to her husband, the man who had swept her all to Paris in the first place." Finally at age ninety-one she told Alex, her great nephew and a professional writer, "All right, dearie, maybe we should work on it together."

The book begins in 1948 with Julia and Paul's first view of the lights of Le Harve as their ship drew into port. Married only two years they saw Paul's diplomatic posting to France as an adventure and crucible test of their relationship. It ends in 1992 when, with Paul no longer able to travel, Julia packs up and returns the keys to their get-away cottage in France.

One reviewer describes the memoir as "an engaging, endearing love letter to France". Another says "evocative...crackling with Child's joie de vivre." I concur with these descriptions. I also saw this as a love story between two remarkable people who were devoted to one another. The move "Julie and Julia" perfectly captures this aspect.

In short - I highly recommend this book and the movie as well.
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LibraryThing member ACQwoods
I was trying to read this so I could go see the movie. Not a problem. I started it on a Friday and was done by Saturday night. This book was so engaging and fun; it really felt like Julia was just chatting with me. It was fascinating to learn more about her life and how she went from an American in Paris to the Julia Child we all know. My first introduction to Julia was when I was young and my mom watched her show on PBS. I remember thinking of her as the woman with the funny voice who used lots of butter (not too far off!). I was surprised to learn that Julia was interested in the science of cooking and spent days recreating recipes to ensure that they worked every time and could be replicated by the home cook. The book was a great read for everyone, even if you're not into cooking. I did see the movie a few days later and enjoyed that too. They had clearly done a lot of research and the Julia portion of it was accurate and hilarious. Two drumsticks up!… (more)
LibraryThing member karenlisa
My Life in France By Julia Child Delicious, detailed, adventurous account of the lives of Julia and Paul Child. Through Julia's unique voice and words, and her nephews pen, the reader is immersed in the culinary world of Europe post WWII, their travels living abroad, interesting companions and beautiful marriage. Their support and love for each other is unending for their entire lives and Pauls black and white photographs scattered throughout the book lend a charming glimpse through history. A simpler time, a couple that found fame and fortune much later in life than one would expect, and a woman that changed the way people cook and the world over. Wonderfully written, easy to follow, makes the reader hunger for more.… (more)
LibraryThing member DWWilkin
What a wonderful recipe for life. Was that too campy. We have in My Life in France a treasure of parts of Julia Child's life that led her to the success that she became. Surely in a biography remembering all the good slants things, but the bad is glossed over but not left out.

The joy that she imbues in her tale though is what emerges as she learns to cook, and immerses herself in the cultures she inhabits. If she had first gone to live in Timbuktu with her husband Paul, a very integral part of the tale and of her life, I am sure we might all be fascinated with North African cooking more than we are with our hearty desire and enjoyment of French fare.

It is clear that Mrs. Child influenced many on what we do make in the kitchen. I when a bachelor came up with my own white wine take on Coq au vin, but her road on how her quest turned our successful is well worth the time to read.

That she sees the world with her eyes, she shares with us and we become happy residents of each of her homes, and well ensconced with Paul Child in the kitchen watching her. She opens up her journey to learn how to cook better and the fortunate way she entered a professional class at the Cordon Bleu and then made friends with two women who already had sold the idea of writing a cookbook.

It is possible that Julia Child may never have tackled a cookbook on her own, just private teaching of the art of French Cooking without that connection to the collaborators of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, a labor of love and eight years that when it bore fruit, it did so in a big way.

The book tour that led to cooking demonstrations, on such shows as Today while Television was still young. That led to some trials at Boston's Public TV which led to the French Chef series and ever growing popularity of the book. All could not be achieved if she had not loved French Cuisine and was able to share that passion so articulately with the world.

That she was able to do that with how to cook, she has also shared with how to live. Part of this is cooking, and part of this is just living fully and enjoying your fellows. Philosophy and advice you hear a lot, but Julia Child took to heart.

Tackling this work when she was in her final years, and the book finished by her great-nephew after her passing it is worth a read. Perhaps not multiple reads but that is something that after reading this, her cookbooks seems to call to me now. Oh the need is there to rush out and get DVDs of her cooking show just to see her again and to jump on the bus of her love affair with French Cooking.
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LibraryThing member isolde100
Memoirs of Julia Child of the years after WWII when she lived in France with her husband, Paul. A delightful read. So much of what was valued before -- the exquisite preparation of food, mastering the skills of the kitchen -- are now gone.
LibraryThing member kjain
Inspirational story about an amazing couple. I never realized how brilliant Julia Child was.
LibraryThing member george.d.ross
For a young American learning to cook in France (and trying to get a book published), this was a fun book to read. For anyone else... enh. It's worth flipping through for the occasional anecdote, but it probably won't hold your interest.

I admit, though, it was intriguing to learn about the real woman behind the Julia Child franchise. I learned that she was an extremely driven person, full of energy and lusty joie de vivre. She was also a bit coarse and foul-mouthed, and very stubborn -- it's clear she could be a real challenge to get along with, even though she does her best to blame all her conflicts on the *other* party.… (more)
LibraryThing member jennjack
Most of us have an image of Julia Child from watching her cooking shows, but don't know too much more about her. This memoir, which she completed just before her death, allows us to see her as a whole person and to understand how she became the premier American authority on French cooking and how she and her husband Paul lived their lives together. From the first time she ate French food she became interested in it, and that interest culimated in 7 years of work on the first cookbook, along with one active and one not-so-active coauthor. Understanding the difficulty of the project and how painstakingly Ms. Child tested and edited the recipes was an eye-opener. Anyone who owns "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" ought to read this book. It also was interesting to learn more about her marriage and her relationships with parents and siblings. This is an honest and open memoir, in which Ms. Child did not flinch from her own flaws while being generous with others. There is a game some play where they name the 5 people from "history" with whom they would like to share meal. Julia Child is now one of my five.… (more)
LibraryThing member edithmills
Love it! I'm excited to cook again and inspired by Julia Child. I want to be just like her when I move to europe!
LibraryThing member Pool_Boy
What a great, great book. I can just imagine Julia speaking the whole book to me. I am a slow reader and I read this book very, very quickly. I could not put it down. If I ever had the chance to meet someone who has already died, Julia Child would be near the top of my list.
LibraryThing member impossiblejane
I knew who Julia Child was before reading this book but I did not know anything about her.

I was most inspired that she didn't even learn to cook until she was married at age 38. She was very dedicated to learning and expanding her mind.

This book was a quick enjoyable read. The book had a very positive outlook. Even when she was writing about disappointing or annoying events she put a positive spin on it.

And she loved cats! I loved her photos of her cat that she adopted in Paris.

I didn't want to finish the book because I wanted to savor it.
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LibraryThing member StoutHearted
Fascinating biography of Julia Child's love affair with food, and how she brought French cuisine to the consciousness of the average American. The book also provides great photos, many courtesy of her husband Paul, an avid, amateur photographer.

It all started with a really kickass Dover sole... the buerre blanc, the presentation, the freshness of the fish, the honest rusticness of the staff... it flicked a switch in Julia's mind that gave her one purpose in life: to figure out how to cook well. She was no spring chicken at that point, but she was not deterred from reaching her goal. Determination was Julia's strong point, and after reading this novel, one can see that there was no way Julia wasn't going to have her way, whether it was discovering the secret to good, homemade mayonnaise after many tries, or putting out a cookbook that met her satisfaction. In print, she is as dynamic as she was on television.

It feels right that this book should be a biography starting at her culinary career, because that is the figure we know and love. One cannot think of Julia Child without also thinking of food and France. Indeed, it surprised many to learn that Julia was not French herself (her unusual accent was often misinterpreted.) Though great French cooks came before her, she is the one credited by the general population as being the one who brought it to the masses. Thanks to her, the middle class scrambled for exotic ingredients at their markets and labored at fancy meals from scratch for their dinner parties. Taking advantage of the accessibility of television, Julia made America fall in love with cooking. It speaks a lot about her iconic impact on our society that her kitchen resides in the Smithsonian.
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LibraryThing member majorbabs
I don't cook, and certainly wouldn't spend days developing mayonnaise, but Julia's history of her life in France is well worth reading.
LibraryThing member christinatinglof
Not a hugely great read--Julie Child was a gourmet chef after all, not a literary master--but interesting nonetheless. I found myself skimming the passages on her day-to-day life (it was just too much) but loved learning about how her culinary career evolved. Wish she had translated the abundance of French she used throughout the book--frustrating not knowing what she was talking about! Worth a look if you're a fan of The French Chef.… (more)
LibraryThing member npl
Before the Food Channel, Julia Child reigned as Queen of televised cooking. This memoir reveals a very surprising side to Julia's life in France, especially during the Cold War, and led to her love of French cooking.
LibraryThing member InsatiableB
This is a gem of a book. Written just before her death by Julia Child about her life in France.
Julia was in her mid 30's when she arrived in France the first time. She fell madly in love with Paris and the French way of life and cooking. For the next 30 years Julia and her husband, Paul, lived in France and other countries surrounding and Julia learned the French way of cooking.
Her books and television show all stemmed from this French experience. It is such an encouragement to hear about a woman beginning the most important and influential segments of life around the age of 40...makes me feel like there's all the time in the world.
I actually listened to this book on CD and it was done wonderfully by a woman with a raspy voice and colorful expression. Plus, I am not a French speaker or reader and I have no clue as to how to pronounce the French words I see in print. To actually hear the silky language come off the tongue was a real treat.
Love Julia Child? Love France? Love food? Read this book.
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LibraryThing member bfolds
What a delight! Julia Child has long been one of my heroes...and this wonderful book only bolstered my admiration for this strong, funny, groundbreaking woman. I was concerned that the "co-authorship" would diminish her voice, but I could hear that distinctive Julia Child way of speaking in every word. Highly recommended for anyone who loves food or just appreciates courageous women.… (more)
LibraryThing member Talbin
My Life In France, by Julia Child and Alex Prud'Homme, recounts Child's life in France from the time she and her husband, Paul, arrived in 1948 until Julia gave up their little Provence country house in 1992. The book primarily focuses on the time period 1948 through 1970, during which Child co-wrote Mastering the Art of French Cooking Volumes I and II and started her PBS show, The French Chef. The book was put together by Alex Prud'Homme (Child's nephew) from voluminous letters kept by Child, her family and her friends, and from many personal conversations.

The book describes a fascinating time in French history - the period directly after WWII, and especially in French cooking history. I really enjoyed Child's description of how she and Simca Beck developed the recipes for Mastering the Art of French Cooking - what an exacting process they went through. And Child's joie de vivre shines through on every page; she must have been a wonderfully fun person to know.… (more)
LibraryThing member sacrain
I loved this book. It made me wish I had appreciated Julia Child when she was still with us, and I had unfettered access to public television as a child. It made me want to go to France and eat and drink myself silly. It made me want to buy cookware at places other than Ikea and Marshall's. It made me want to find a Paul Child of my very own. It amazed me that Julia -- a woman in the 1950's -- could accomplish so much without really calling herself a feminist. She was like a feminist sneak attack.

This books was a phenomenal read -- easy to pick up, hard to put down. I would recommend it to any female over 9 years old, and any gentleman over 32 (unless they're super-excited about cooking). Of course, it's highly recommended for anyone who loves to cook, eat, or think about visiting France. Loved it. This would make a great holiday gift for ANYONE on your list. Except maybe vegetarians.
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LibraryThing member pictou
Interesting book, but having read a biography of Julia Child there was not much new information here.


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