Monday, October 12, 2009

Tuesday Books for Writers! My Life In France

My Life In France
by Julia Child with Alex Prud'homme
Especially read this if you're writing:
A memoir
A biography
About travelling
About food
A cookbook

I found this to be a difficult book to do a Tuesday Books for Writer's post. It's a genre I don't normally read. And as I read it, I wonder how to describe the narration. When trying to describe the writing, I automatically look to the writer. But, while this story is told from Julia Child's point of view, it was technically completed after her death by Alex Prud'homme. Of course, it's based on extensive research, conversations, interviews, and letters with Child herself. But for some reason, I can't get past the fact that someone other than Julia would write something trying to sound like Julia.

Despite this weirdo struggle of mine, the book is absolutely fascinating. I do feel that Julia is telling me her story and I am eating it right up-- no pun intended.
But in sitting down to write this post, I really had to ask myself: why is this book good for fiction writers? Is it even any good for someone not writing a memoir? The prose isn't anything special. The timeline is linear, but I often feel that transitions are rough. I often question why one particular anecdote is told in light of the actual plot and I fail to see a lot of connections between the two. And yet, the anecdotes are what make it interesting. The 'characters' are wonderful, but are often not elaborated upon enough. So, what can a fiction writer take from this besides a factual account of Julia Child's life? Beyond Julia being an inspirational person in general, what should you take from this book?
I thought really hard about this one. And it turns out, I was thinking much too much. It's right there in the title. My Life In France! The spirit of a place! The spirit of a particular person in that place! It is captured magnificently in this book. After reading this, if you don't immediately want to book a trip to Paris, drink every glass of wine that Julia sipped, eat at every restaurant Julia sat in, meet every delightful person Julia met in France, well, I'd wonder a little bit about you. As with everything about Julia Child, her enthusiasm and passion for life, particularly the one she led in France, simply leaps off of the page.
And so I realized, wherever my protagonist may be, I better let them experience it to the fullest. Even if they hate where they are. The things they see and do always have to reflect that. My readers should want to spit out every sip of wine my main character takes if she hates the restaurant (I'm really digging the wine analogy)
So, if you're a fiction writer- still read this book! Julia Child is a fascinating and inspiring person, and she really knows how to let a place become a character.
Thank you Julia! Thank you Alex Prud'homme! Especially because you have an apostrophe in your name. That's pretty kewl.

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