Julie & Julia
This book was fantastic!
Yes, it is about cooking. (Which I can neither understand the allure of nor the necessity for when there are things like delivery Chinese food and microwaves).
Yes, it is about Julia Child (someone I had never –gasp- really heard of).
And yet… I loved this book almost comepletly. Yes, there was one aspect that bugged me, bothered me, turned my avid reading into dull eyed scanning… and I’ll get to that in a second.
First though, the book is about a woman named Julie who decides pretty much on a whim to cook all 500+ recipes from Julia Child’s first cookbook. Wait… it gets better. First off she will do all of these recipes in the span of only one year, and she will blog about it as she goes.
Now if you are doing the math, you will have realized that she is going to be clocking more than one recipe a day. And writing about her adventures… all while maintaining a job and a social life.
Admirable, sure… but it is Julie’s voice…. Her raw realistic sometimes vulgar and hopelessly honest voice that turns this project into something worth reading about, even if you don’t understand her desire to undertake it.
The story is about the food, the blog, the constant dishes… but more than that Julie tells us a story about her world… of a mindless boring drone job, a social group that is acheningly familiar, and the trials and tribulations of an actual marriage. Her story is the story for any woman who has felt trapped and needed to DO SOMETHING in order to find her power, her voice, in the world.
And it is almost without flaw.
There is just this one thing…
As a blogger, Julie wrote about her adventures in the kitchen, being brutal with the truth and her occasional failure. In the book, she does this as well, but she adds in fictionlized vignettes Julia Child’s life. (I know they are fiction, I read the introduction.) This sadly does a few things… it breaks up the narrative flow and distracts from Julie’s story, Julie’s voice. I am not really sure why she felt the need to do this… in my humble opinion they added nothing, no parallel structure, no on-par climatic build, just the occasional pause in the story of Julie for a bit of Julia.
Other than that… the book is wonderfully done. It keeps the audience engaged and laughing as we journey with Julie toward the project’s completion. Reading it, one is almost convinced that cooking can be fun, that cooking can be worth it, that cooking French food (fancy and involved French food like bone marrow sauce) is doable by even us common women.
In a word: the book is fantastic.
(And yes, I am aware a movie based on the book is due out this summer. Look for the review of it as well as a comparison sometime in August.)