Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Graphic Novel Review: 'French Milk' by Lucy Knisley

French Milk
by Lucy Knisley

Published: March 16th, 2009
Publisher: Touchstone
Format: Graphic Novel/Paperback
Pages: 192


I love the cover of 'French Milk'. I love the font, which is swirly and whimsical, and I love the mixture of mediums; the cartoon girl leaning out of the real photograph of a Parisian apartment. It is all very stylish, and matches the mixed mediums of the novel itself.

The art inside is very cute. It is very busy, with a lot going on on each page which gives it a scribbled/doodled effect, which is perfect and what I think the author wanted.

I really like this style; it very much reminded me of a Jacqueline Wilson book which were books I loved when I was younger- I cartoony, collage effect which, in this case, functions as a kind of illustrated travel log. 

Plot Synopsis

A place where young Americans can seek poetic magic in the winding streets of a beautiful city. The museums, the cafés, the parks. An artist like Lucy can really enjoy Paris in January. If only she can stop griping at her mother. This comic journal details a mother and daughter's month-long stay in a small apartment in the fifth arrondissement. Lucy is grappling with the onslaught of adulthood. Her mother faces fifty. They are both dealing with their shifting relationship. All the while, they navigate Paris with halting French and dog-eared guidebooks.

My Rating:
Pocket-Size Review
Throw away those Paris guidebooks and instead pick up a copy of 'French Milk'! Perfectly depicting Paris in an honest and straightforward way, combined with photographs and lovely illustrations...I loved it! Pass the croissants.

Highs: The Parisian setting, the detail, the honesty of Lucy, the food porn and her obvious passion for museums and art.
Lows: Even though I admired her honesty, at times Lucy does seem like a bit of a spoiled brat...moaning and bitching and going on about her boyfriend....get over it you're in Paris and you've only got a month! Use it wisely goddamit!


This book is designed to charm your pants off. And it definitely worked on me. If you have ever dreamed of Paris and wearing a beret whilst you soujourn jauntily around the museums and art galleries smoking and looking tres chic (we have all had pretentious dreams) then there is no way that you won't love this book. 'Anna and the French Kiss' did a lot for Paris in the YA book community and I have heard a lot of people saying that that book inspired them to visit it someday. Take 'French Milk' with you if you do....it is everything the cultured tourist needs to know.

Lucy Knisley writes and draws a (very detailed) travel journal during her stay in Paris. It has rather a childish feel to it which I loved; when I find my old diaries from family holidays they are always very matter of fact and record every single insignificant thing, like exactly what food we ate and how many pigeons I saw rather than my feelings and reactions (I wish I had...that would probably make for a much more hilarious read!) Lucy is the same for the most part- 'we went here, then we ate this, then we did this and it was nice'. She does throw in some angst, depression and horniness but not for the most part. She is also very funny and honest and doesn't pull any punches about how she is really feeling. So what if she's in Paris and she's eating amazing food and viewing amazing art...if she wants to throw a tantrum or spend all day in bed then she will! Sometimes when you feel like yo SHOULD be having fun you just can't and I found that Lucy was very honest about the times when she isn't enjoying herself as much as she would like to be.

She also doesn't look at Paris through rose tinted glasses; she says when she had to queue for hours, when certain art was pretentious and boring, when things are too touristy. I liked that because no famous city is like the photographs; yes the beautiful sights are there but they are also framed by another hundred tourists taking exactly the same photo as you. There's one photograph that Lucy includes that she took herself in an art gallery where everyone in the photo is looking at the art through a camera: no one is looking directly at it and enjoying the moment! This is a pet peeve of mine: why are recording a moment you never had? Why not enjoy something while you are experiencing it rather than have a ghost of it preserved. When you look at the photo all you will remember is the memory of taking the photo. I used to do it when I was a teenager but I've now realised that it's just silly. 

I love the food porn in this book; Lucy eats her weight in foie gras, chocolate mousse, croissants and beef and it made me mouth water. The book is called 'French Milk' because she loves the fresh whole fat milk in Paris so much...it's just much more rustic and fresh and everything the eat is from a market. I love that and I could almost smell the freshly baked baguettes. Her mum seems lovely and eats a lot of salads. 

I liked how down to earth Lucy was about the museums too. Let's face it, most of us like the idea of loving museums and being enraptured by history and culture, but most of us will moan our feet hurt and skim read most of the exhibits looking wistfully at the gift shop. In one museum Lucy says,
'If I were to give a tour of such a place, I would include information on the affairs, on what they wore, on the food and the party scandals, and where/how they fucked, shat and picked their noses'
I concur, Lucy, I CONCUR!

Overall, this is a charming little graphic novel that gives a very nice, well-rounded depiction of Paris and gorgeous little doodles to accompany it. Would definitely recommend for any Francophiles!

Other Thoughts

This Book has Inspired me to Read: This made me want to read 'The Paris Wife' by Paula McLain which I saw in a bookshop recently. MOAR PARIS.
Three Words to Describe this Book: Parisian, Appetising, Charming.


  1. That really is a cute cover, I would definitely pick it up if I saw it. And it sort of looks like a cute version of a French text book I had for school. I'm not sure where to find this here but I will have a look for it!

  2. This looks like a wonderful book! I have been meaning to read more graphic novels.....

    Kate @ Ex Libris

  3. I got this last month at our public library. Its cute for sure and an easy read. Lucy is talented and I hope to see more of her work. Its good to have a graphic novel free from gory violence but I hope next time she picks a topic with more depth, even if it is less personal than this.

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