When I first started this blog, I mentioned that I’d love to have ‘guest bloggers.’ If you frequent BBB, you’ll notice comments by Bunny. She’s been a loyal visitor from the start and in ‘real’ life one of my very best friends. Also, we have pretty different taste when it comes to books, so I’ve always known she’d provide a good balance. Enjoy & thanks, Bunny!
Hello, all! Thanks to E-beth for giving me the opportunity to submit a guest book review. First, a little about me. I have been an avid reader since grade school, when my mom began diligently taking my siblings and me to our local public library every week. Currently, I read between 30 and 40 books per year, mostly lighter fare with a few dark and difficult reads thrown in for good measure.
Now, about the book. I have to start with a “backgrounder.” Two years ago, almost to the month (August 2007), I read Julie & Julia by Julie Powell. The book is the true story of Julie’s “third-life” crisis: facing 30, in a dead-end job and a deep life rut, Julie visits her childhood home and pulls out her mom’s copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Julia Child’s landmark cookbook. In a moment of inspiration, she decides to cook every recipe in the book, all 524 of them, and blog about it. The adventure is fraught with triumphs and tears—I loved the book and was inspired by the author’s fierce determination and, more importantly, her revived sense of living with purpose.
I must admit, as a “foodie,” I chose Julie & Julia because of its subject matter. And, if I was being honest, because “Julie” is my Christian name, and not one you see all that often in titles. The combination of both was irresistible. That said, you can imagine how ecstatic I was when I discovered earlier this year that the book was being made into a movie, to be released Aug. 7. However, I decided before I saw the movie, I wanted to learn a little more about Julia Child, so I decided to pick up My Life in France.
In the spirit of full disclosure, the book is “with” Alex Prud’homme, who is Julia’s grand nephew (the grandson of her husband’s twin brother). Alex spent a year interviewing Julia, reviewing her letters and reliving her memories, which he turned into a wonderful homage to her life. Sadly, Julia died before the book was published.
I went into My Life in France with few expectations. I am not a big reader of biographies, but I found this one to be very satisfying. It starts with Julia and Paul Child’s move to Paris, France in 1948, a result of Paul’s work for the U.S. government. A relative newlywed looking to improve her cooking skills, and entranced by the local gastronomy, Julia decides to take classes at the infamous Cordon Bleu. Ever the student and bristling with determination, she masters her classes, and goes on to start her own small cooking school, and later teams with two friends to create Mastering the Art.
Reading the book made me want to jump on the first plane to France, and purchase a copy of the cookbook as soon as I returned home. Her descriptions of food—her cooking, their meals in restaurants—will have you salivating and rethinking organ meats. However, the thing that struck me the most was Julia’s grit.
She married at 35, moved to France at 37 and didn’t start working on Mastering the Art until she was 40. It was 1952. The book was not published until 1961. You can do the math. The second volume of Mastering the Art, and Julia’s cooking show, came even later, of course. Having recently turned 40, I read her story with renewed hope that my best work, my most notable triumphs, are ahead of me. In all, I think My Life in France is a charming read that foodies or Francophiles will especially love. To use Julia’s famous phrase, “Bon appétit!”
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