Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Julie & Julia by Julie Powell

Well. Finally, the book I'd been waiting so anxiously to read.

Julie & Julia, by Julie Powell, documents the outcome of Julie Powell's crazy idea to cook all the recipes in Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking in one calendar year. She laughs, she cries, she kills lobster, she scrapes marrow out of a bone, as well as many other wild cooking endeavors.

I'd been wanting to read this book ever since I saw the movie--when it came out, a year or two ago. (Or three? When did it come out?) I really liked the movie, and my mistake was expecting the book to be similar.

Well, the book was no warm-and-fuzzy foodie read, if you ask me. In fact, I believe it was aimed at the demographic of 20-30-year-old hipster women who enjoy reading about other people's sex lives. (Although I'm the right age, I don't think I fit the demographic.) I read in another review (don't ask me where, I can't remember) that Julie Powell was a little too self-obsessed. Understatement.

Powell seems to be operating on the assumption that her readers care about her secretarial job and her friends' lives. I guess that's a pretty normal assumption to make when you're writing a memoir, except I didn't enjoy it as much as other memoirs because frankly, I didn't really like Powell. She's just, well, not very nice. And again, that's an understatement.

The truth is, this book isn't really about food at all. I'm not exactly sure what it's about (I'm debating between a) opening yourself up to new possibilities and exploring different ways of living, or b) sex) but it's not about food.

I was so frustrated with Powell and her self-obsession and her rudeness that I really, really wanted to put the book down before I finished. I don't really know why I didn't. Some unseen force seemed to be pushing me onward. Maybe it was the anticipation of the book. Maybe it's that it's the first book I've read in the new year, and I feel like what I do with it is an omen for all the other books. Maybe it's that I have a slight obsession of my own with finishing books. Or maybe it's that Powell's writing is truly engaging. And it's true. Even though I repeatedly felt like throwing the book across the room, the writing is funny, clever, and actually kept me from putting the book down. Even when Powell writes about her job (as a secretary for a government agency, possibly the most boring job in the world to read about), she manages to make it interesting.

And there's also the fact that, even though there was plenty in between, a good portion of the book was spent in discussing Powell's triumphs and failures with French cooking, which was the most fun part. It actually made me almost want to mimic the Julie/Julia Project with some sort of insane cooking project of my own (sans continual cursing at my husband).

...Well, okay. I probably won't be doing an insane cooking project anytime soon, but the book really did inspire me to plow ahead with whatever I'm inspired to do, be it cooking French food every day for a year or reading 50 classics in five years.

Oh, no, it's starting to sound like I actually liked the book! Drat it, Julie Powell, making me like her against my will...


  1. I've seen the movie, but haven't read the book. I think I'm going to pass on it.

    1. Don't blame you. I think a re-watch of the movie is in order for me, actually. I'm wondering now exactly how similar it is to the book.

  2. Hopping over from the Books on France Reading Challenge. I read this book before the movie, but also enjoyed the movie much more than the book for the same reasons -- Amy Adams is so much nicer than Julie Powell!. I recommend My Life in France by Julia Child, which I really enjoyed:

    1. I actually did read that book shortly after Julie & Julia, just to see more of what the "real" Julia Child was, rather than how Julie Powell imagined her. I loved it! Thank you for sharing your blog post; I felt pretty much exactly the same way about the book.