“It is altogether curious, your first contact with poverty. You have thought so much about poverty — it is the thing you have feared all your life, the thing you knew would happen to you sooner or later; and it is so utterly and prosaically different. You thought it would be quite simple; it is extraordinarily complicated. You thought it would be terrible; it is merely squalid and boring. It is the peculiar lowness of poverty that you discover first; the shifts that it put you to, the shifts that it puts you to, the complicated meanness, the crust wiping.” — p 13 Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell.
In French Milk, Lucy Knisley recounts the six weeks that she and her mother rented an apartment in Paris to celebrate their 22nd and 50th birthdays. Its blend of comic book style drawings, travel photographs and personal thoughts gives the book a collage feel, and results in a feeling of intimacy with Knisley.
Knisley shares what she’s reading, how she’s feeling; from her bad moods to her longing for her boyfriend, and what she’s eating. This book made me pretty hungry. Most things set in France seem to affect my appetite like that.
I found that the main theme in French Milk, apart from travel, was the conflict that many people in their early twenties feel in as they make that strange transition from adolescence to adulthood, as well as the anxiety about soon having to make one’s own way that nearing the end of tertiary education produces. These are all feelings I’ve recently experienced, but have not really seen captured in a book before, so I really enjoyed and related to this aspect of Knisley’s thoughts.
This was just the trick today when I needed something light to entertain me while sick in bed. It’s short, whimsical, but also very poignant. And it’s my first graphic novel, I’m really keen to try out some more now after enjoying this one so much.