Friday, December 26, 2014

Book Review: "Julie & Julia" (Julie Powell)

In some circles, memoirs are among the lesser-known works to be marketed and read. Nonetheless, the memoir is a tremendously valid genre, often exquisitely poignant, well-written, and not only entertaining but also thought-provoking.

Read a memoir, that in-depth snippet about someone's life, and you can empathize, even if your personal experience is not exactly the same. Then both of your lives and experiences have been validated, have been made significant.

More than ten years ago, in 2002, in a cramped apartment in New York City, Julie Powell, a relatively nondescript woman except for a certain uneasy feeling that life was passing her by, started a blog. She had to be schooled in what a blog was by Eric, her long-suffering, very supportive husband.

Nonetheless, inexperience didn't inhibit her goal: to cook all 524 recipes from Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking within a single year. (For those of you doing the math, that comes to about 1.5 recipes per day.) She called it the Julie/Julia Project.

A year later, Powell turned her experience into a memoir, Julie & Julia.

Her memoir is warm, funny, unbelievable, and conversational; I imagine she must talk the way she writes, sort of in an easy rambling way. She chose to intersperse her own story with fictional snippets from the diaries and letters of Julia Child and her husband Paul, and the overall effect is to ground the reader in the idea of the two women's life stories running side by side, connected.

The humor with which Powell writes caught me off-guard when I first read the memoir. I had assumed that someone undertaking such a monumental, slightly insane task as cooking all the recipes in a huge cookbook in a single year would approach the project with hushed reverence and awe.

Not for Powell.

She tackles everything --- lobsters, marital problems, friends, eggs, crepes, aspics, New York City, plumbing mishaps, and more --- with a decidedly irreverent outlook and with brutal honesty: no secrets or facades here.

Julie & Julia is a memoir not for the faint of heart, but for all those who have dreamed an impossible dream and gone on to do something about it. Even in trying, you've succeeded at something.

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Title: Julie & Julia
Author: Julie Powell
ISBN: 978-0-316-04427-1
Purchase here:

Disclaimer: The opinions I have expressed are my own.

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