French Milk review: C’est magnifique

French Milk, by comic artist Lucy Knisley, is an autobiographical diary of comics Knisley made during her 2007 trip to Paris. Knisley wrote and illustrated the comics about her relationship with her mother (with whom she traveled), about delicious authentic croissants, her Parisian friends, and of course, French milk. I know it sounds cheesy, but it really transported me to Paris. I felt like I was walking through the Louvre, eating foie gras, and picking out tomatoes at a French market. 

Though it’s categorized as a graphic novel, this book really did feel like I was reading a friend’s diary. It’s so relatable! It details the excitement (and stress) of preparing for a trip, it dives into the struggles of traveling with a parent, it’s youthful, but thoughtful. It’s about growing up and getting old. The book takes place in 2007, when both Knisley and her mother were facing important birthdays. Knisley’s mother was turning fifty, and Knisley herself was turning twenty-two. Knisley faces the end of her childhood and adolescence, and looks back on how life with her mother was when Knisley was a child.

Not only do I really appreciate what Knisley covers thematically in French Milk, I also love her style of illustration. Everything is done with a brush pen, which makes the drawings feel loose and emotive. This added to the feeling that I was reading someone’s diary. Also, throughout the book are black and white photographs of people and places and paintings and Knisley herself. So not only is French Milk a diary, but a scrapbook as well.

If you like personal narratives, graphic novels, art, and food, you’ll love French Milk. And if you’re not so into France, or just curious about Knisley’s other work, check out Knisley’s other eight graphic novels (and quite a few comics) on her website.