Sunday, October 4, 2009

Review of the Day: Julie & Julia


Julie Powell took a clever idea born of personal desperation and used it to catapult into a new career as an author. Stuck in her dead-end temp job as a government secretary, and panicking over turning 30, Powell got the harebrained idea to cook all the recipes in Julia Child’s most famous cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking (volume one, at least), in one year. Her stroke of genius luck was to take her husband’s idea and log her daily progress on a blog she called the Julie/Julia Project, thus eventually earning her a book deal for Julie & Julia, a movie deal, and the enmity of hundreds of envious bloggers typing away in obscurity.

Unfortunately, the idea was better than the execution -- at least for readers hoping to learn about Julia Child and read about, well, cooking all the recipes in MtAoFC in one year. There is precious little discussion about Child, and not much about the cooking. Instead, ignoring the rule that “just because it happened to you does not make it interesting,” most of the book is about Powell’s dead-end temp job as a government secretary and panic over turning 30.

When Powell writes about the cooking, the book is very good -- witty, irreverent, and fresh. The passages about making Boeuf Bourguignon, her adventures with aspic, and her final triumphant duck de-boning make the book worthwhile. But digressions into Powell personal life, such as buying her friend a pink sex toy for her birthday or the sexual endowments of another friend’s married lover -- while they may be what made her blog so popular -- coarsen the story. Julie & Julia would be better with more MtAoFC and less Sex in the City.

NOTE: This was my memoir/biography choice for the Spice of Life Challenge.


Book Psmith

(Many people reviewed this book. If you would like your review listed here, please leave a comment with a link and I will add it.)


Book Psmith said...

This is a fantastic review. You were able to put into words so many of my own feelings on this book. It was serendipitous that I combined mine with a movie comparison because it stopped me from ranting on all the things I didn't like about it. I too wished she had stuck to the cooking and had to have been more than enough interesting material for the book alone. I don't know how many times I caught myself saying TMI (too much information) throughout this book:)

bermudaonion said...

I listened to the abridged audio version of this and enjoyed it. I do think some of the language in the book was unnecessary though.

Nicole said...

i saw Julia Child's kitchen in DC at the Smithsonian when I was there for the National Book Festival. That's about as much as I can say about Julia Child or this book. I'm not a huge fan of French cooking and this book just never held that much appeal for me. Doesn't sound as if I misses too much.

Marie said...

Thanks for the review. I'm seeing a consensus develop within the blogosphere with this book!

Rose City Reader said...

Psmith -- THANKS! No surprise that you and I felt the same way about this one.

Bermuda -- Abridged would probably help. I am still looking forward to the movie.

Nicole -- This doesn't sound like your cup of tea. I love French food and French cooking, so the food parts were very fun. Although I think I'd more enjoy just reading the Julia Child cookbook and skipping this one.

Marie -- Have you reviewed it? I'll stop by and take a look.

Rose City Reader said...

Does anyone have the email address for who at Hachette to send reviews of this book? I had it, but can't find it.

Rebecca Reid said...

Oh I'm so sorry to hear it was a bit too much of a digression! I really am looking forward to the movie too, and I was hoping to get the book read first. Grr. Now I'm not so sure.

I do appreciate the honest appraisal of the book. It's too bad it couldn't stay focused on the foodie aspects, since that is what I'm looking forward to as well.

SocrMom78 said...

Thank God for your review. I had flipped through it a couple of times at the bookstore and never seemed to see anything about cooking so I kept skipping it. Now I am glad I did. I would have wanted to read it for the cooking insight, not so much her personal life.

Debbie Rodgers said...

Here's the link to my review. I think I liked it a bit more than you did.

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