I’ve read Lucy Knisley’s books mostly out of order. I started with her more recent and worked my way around. Not on purpose, but sometimes that’s just how reading goes, you know?
I first discovered Knisley’s work via her webcomic and loved it because she loved, and drew about, so many of the things I loved: cats, books, Harry Potter, food. She was also navigating some of the same things I was, namely How to Adult and everything that went with it. I was also keeping a blog at the time, and writing about my many exploits and experiments with Adulting, some more successful than others.
Reading French Milk reminded me of how I feel when I go back and read my blog from the early days, when I was in my early twenties and trying so hard to Figure Shit Out. You have so much Shit to figure out in your twenties but particularly in your early twenties, when you’re on your own for the first time, usually making very little money, and almost always with very little idea of who you are, where you’re going, or what life has in store for you.
Knisley was in much the same position when she wrote French Milk, and part of me wonders if she feels similarly when she reads this book. Her art and storytelling have come so far since French Milk, and it’s interesting to see how much she’s grown as an artist and novelist, but there’s a charm to this novel that’s entirely due to her being in her early twenties at the time that she wrote it.
French Milk is part sketchbook, part biography, and all travelogue. Knisley is preparing for a trip to Paris with her mother, and also preparing for her impending graduation from college. Paris is a holiday getaway, but the impending graduation hanging over her head makes it hard for Knisley to enjoy the trip. She and her mother go sightseeing, shopping, and try out as many restaurants as possible, while Knisley tries not to stress too much about graduation projects and what she’s going to do when school is over. We’ve all been in that position, or one very much like it, and though I’m over a decade past that particular uncertainty, thinking about it still makes me feel panicky.
While French Milk didn’t hold the same appeal of Knisley’s later work (though honestly, it seems unfair to compare), there was a charm to it which made it impossible not to enjoy. There’s something special about these slice of life narratives; even the most mundane detail seems weighted with Something Important. I honestly can’t get enough of it, I hope Knisley keeps at it forever.