Archive for February 3rd, 2009

February 3, 2009

French Milk by Lucy Knisley

My first graphic novel of the year, although this book was not shelved in the graphic novel section (sneaking adult catalogers, at it again!) nor is it a novel in the most traditional sense of the word. But no matter what kind of an enigma this little paperback turned out to be, I did enjoy reading it (and so did my 15-year-old sister, I might add). Yes, despite the little discussion I’m about it have with myself, it was a pleasant read.

Let me first say that this book lacks a single lick of plot. There is no rising or falling action. Actually, the only action that goes on is eating, walking, and a little talking. This book is a travelogue – a diary – that Lucy kept while she and her mother lived in France for six weeks. And she doesn’t go out of her way to make those sweeping conclusions that almost define the travel-writing genre.

Her deepest cultural observation? French has excellent milk.

Her biggest moral conflict? Whether or not she’s prepared to go from college-kid to real-live-adult.

And her most pressing personal problem? How to be nice to her mother while suffering from PMS.

One of my favorite quotes is by writer Anne Beattie:

“It seems to me that the problem with diaries, and the reason that most of them are so boring, is that every day we vacillate between examining our hangnails and speculating on cosmic order.”

Lucy chooses to focus on her hangnails in this book.


Her hangnails happen to be in Paris.

And she draws them instead of writing about them.

So if you are looking for a page-turner, a sassy, poignant take on Paris or French culture, look elsewhere.

But if you want to see what Paris looked like to one 22-year-old girl – trying fancy food, taking shopping trips, and watching Arrested Development episodes on a laptop in bed with her mom – then you’ve found the single book in the world for you.

And, I don’t know about you, but I enjoy reading about other people’s hangnail examinations. 🙂

Lucy’s website | Author Blog