After reading Lucy Knisley’s graphic novel travel log Here at Hogwarts (read my review of it here), I couldn’t wait to get my hands on another. I was so fascinated by the idea of a travel log in comic form! As Paris has been high up on my re-visit list since the first time I visited (I mean, can you really EVER spend enough time in Paris?) I picked up Knisley’s French Milk.
French Milk is a travel log of a month Knisley spent in Paris with her mother. They rented an apartment, so they were able to immerse themselves not only in the cultural sites of the city, but also in the smaller, less touristy areas. They went out to restaurants, but they also frequented the market street where they bought all the pieces of their meal at small individual shops so they could eat at their apartment. Knisley records in her sketches many of the meals they ate and foods that differed from her American life. She made daily expeditions to see the city’s cultural sites, indulging her interest in art at many of the museums. And she also gets personal when her father joins them in Paris for her birthday dinner and she touches on the dynamic of her divorced parents. She also doesn’t shy away from the topic of sex when she begins to feel homesick and her thoughts stray to her boyfriend back in the states. It has everything a travel log should have: inspiration for places to see and things to eat, and just enough personality to be an enjoyable story.
I found the log culturally interesting when she drew her visits to the art museums. Knisely sketched likenesses of the paintings she found most interesting. These often tended to reflect some of the more famous nude paintings. I was most intrigued by her discussion of the Gustave Courbet painting Origin of the World found at the Musee d’Orsay (you may not want to Google this one, it’s a bit pornographic). Interestingly, when I googled some of the paintings to learn more about those that she mentioned, I discovered that her quick sketch likenesses were pretty accurate. Her artistic ability cannot be faulted, she is a talented artist.
I also found it interesting that as a graphic artist, Knisley picked up on details of places that I, as a writer, would never have thought of. For example, she drew the wallpaper design of a restaurant she visited. This type of visual element is not something I would have thought of paying attention to before, but I may now.
Knisley’s straightforward attitude towards sex and the openness she seems to feel at sharing these thoughts with her parents surprised me. Perhaps it was influenced by being in a city known for its romance. These parts of the book stuck out to me, because in a written travel log you would hardly have photographs to go along with your thoughts. As this is a graphic novel, however, Knisley draws her thoughts, including images of herself scantily clad with her boyfriend. Once again showing, as in her other travel log, that travel logs in graphic form can have advantages over written travel logs.
Would I recommend this book?
I would definitely recommend this book, both for the story and for those interested in exploring various ways to travel log. It also just might inspire you to go to Paris, eat ALL the food, and spend SO much time at the museums that your travel partners want to cry!