Monday, May 31, 2010

Julie and Julia by Julie Powell

Julie Powell, while working for the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation in the wake of 9/11 as a secretary, began the Julie/Julia project.  She was going to cook her way through the 524 recipes in Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking in one year and she was going to blog about it. Her sole purpose in attempting to slog her way through this classic recipe collection is to enliven her dreary life and who wouldn't feel the same? I would be depressed answering phone calls from the victims of 9/11 and people complaining about the LMDC's plans to rebuild the World Trade Center. This blog became the basis of her book and the movie entitled Julie and Julia, starring Amy Adams and Meryl Streep and serves to commemorate her process. She attempts to weave Julia Child's life in Paris into her memoir as it is during this time that Julia learns about French cooking in almost painful detail. Julie's blog is highlighted in the media, and this leads to a lucrative book deal.

The book was very well written (as opposed to her next memoir - Cleaving - which I read and disliked immensely) but I often got really tired about the whining, stress bucket that was Julie Powell. It gets a little old when you are constantly being told by the author how awful her job is, how awful her life is and why she's better than everyone because she's doing this project.  There were times when she was very witty and pretty funny. I was impressed by the depth of Ms. Powell's research into Julia Child's life in Paris - she never met Julia Child (who died I think shortly after this project was done) so she had to look at letters written by both Ms. Child and her husband, Paul, as well as secondary resources - biographies and articles.  I found that the interludes in which she created the scenes between Paul and Julia were too forced and were unnecessary. Julie could have told her own story without those brief interludes and they did nothing to move any part of the story forward. If I wanted to learn about Julia Child, I would have picked up a book about her.

Generally an entertaining read if you can get past the angst.

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