French Milk

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French MilkFrench Milk by Lucy Knisley
Illustrated by: Lucy Knisley
Published: 2007
Publisher: Touchstone
Length: 188 pages

I really enjoyed Relish when I read it last year, so I’ve been meaning to try Knisley’s other graphic novels since then. Her Wikipedia page shows five books released through publishers and a number of self-published works as well. This one is a food-centric travelogue through Paris, which ticked all the right boxes for me.

Lucy Knisley wrote this at the age of twenty three while spending six weeks in Paris with her mother. It’s a great way to keep a journal, a mix of traditional journaling and illustration. I love the idea of being able to quickly sketch out a scenic view or an interesting market item like this. Not to be too predictable, but it does remind me of old adventurers’ journals, where they might sketch out anything they need to remember. It makes me want to pick up a pencil and start practicing.

I thought this would mainly be about food, and while that is a common topic throughout the book, it’s really more about being homesick and somewhat whiny in a foreign country. Her parents are paying for the trip, as far as I can tell, and she spends the entire time moping about, missing her friends and boyfriend back in America. She’s twenty three but acts more like a sixteen-year-old throughout the book, seemingly unaware of how good she has it. I wonder if paying for travel yourself at that age forces you to try to get more out of the experience.

She is being true to the emotion she felt during the trip, rather than looking back with rose-coloured glasses and imagining it as more than it was, which I can appreciate. It’s just day-by-day documentation of her time in Paris – where she went, what she ate, what she bought, and how she felt – without any real narrative, and in order for that to work you really need to be interested in the documenter herself, and I just wasn’t. I think I wanted this same trip, with this same style of journaling, written ten years later in her life. This is the sort of trip that she could probably look back on later in life and write about in an interesting way, but it’s a bit of a bore written about like this. The same way teenage dramas can be really interesting when written by an adult, but are rarely interesting when described by the teenagers involved.

I did enjoy this, but I just wanted more out of it. Every page in which she described food from the market, what they made for dinner, or what they ate in restaurants was perfect for me, but there was too little of that. I didn’t really connect with anything else in the book. I do really like Lucy Knisley’s style of comics, though, and will be continuing on with her other books soon.

2 thoughts on “French Milk

  1. Claudia

    I would agree with you re paying for whatever it is increases the sense of involvement and interest. But, all the same, I really enjoy my travel journals most when I’ve included bits of drawing, painting or cropped and added to photos, along with the notes.

    1. Rob Post author

      I have never successfully kept a travel journal, despite having lofty plans to do so on a couple occasions, but I do love the idea of including visual notes as well.


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