Review: Julie & Julia- Julie Powell

I am very happy to say that after a lot of blood, sweat and tears my first completed draft of my dissertation is FINALLY handed in! Yes I do still have a portfoilo and another essay to write but it means I might actually have a little bit more time to write what I actually want.  There’s so much stuff I’m itching to write on here, so after five days straight of dissertation writing, I think I can write what I want for a change (:

I think I actually finished this book back in February. A bit of time has gone by since then and I’ve read other books, but I wanted to write this review to put straight all the bad reviews the novel has received recently. Julie Powell is an American woman living in New York, bored with the monotony of her life and hating her job working for a government agency.

‘Without the project I was nothing but a secretary on a road to nowhere, drifting towards frosted hair and menthol addiction

This is until the Julie & Julia project is born: to cook every single one of the 524 recipes in Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking- the book that transformed thousands of lives of serventless American cooks. Julie & Julia is a wonderful memoir that charts the journey of one woman’s inspiring project to find self-fulfilment. Chronicling her cooking experiences in a blog, Julie describes the hilarity, happiness and mishaps that accompany her in her determination to achieve what no one has ever done before. She cooks everything from the famous Julia Child boeuf bourguignon to beef bone marrow and lobsters; and although it certainly isn’t easy for Julia, her descriptions of what complicated dish she was cooking next, along with how she tackled the problems that constantly came up with each recipe, gave me an excting read that even inspired me to do a lot of cooking of my own. (I can now make a fantastic greek beef stew with red wine, cinnamon and nutmeg!)

The author also includes information about Julia Child’s own life and interlaces short passages about her within the narrative.

Julia Child began learning to cook because she wanted to share good food with her husband, because she’d fallen in love with great food… because she was in Paris, because she didn’t know what to do with herself. She was thirty seven years old. She’d found love and it was divine. She’d learn to eat, and that was pretty great too. But it wasn’t enough.

The warmth and intimacy of the passages give insight to the life of a wonderful woman, who gave hope and inspiration to the author and thousands of other women across America:

One of my favourite JC stories comes from a letter her husband Paul wrote to his brother, Charlie. He tells of sitting in their kitchen in Paris while she boiled cannelloni. She reached into the boiling water…and said with a yelp as she pulled out the pasta, ‘Wow! These damn things are as hot as a stiff cock.’

While I throughly enjoyed this delicious read, it hasn’t been so widely acclaimed by other readers. The film released in 2009 has caused readers to compare film and novel, and most readers were left with the sense that the book was more nitty gritty; in other words, the book was less romanticised the film. One of the criticisms was that Julie swore a lot and that she liked to complain about her job and the project itself. While I am aware that people have different opinions, I thought that these criticisms were not fully justified. Julie didn’t always used the most dignified language in the novel but it is a memoir, so her writing and own thoughts are honest and not always glossed over. I’m pretty sure that if you attempted to cook 524 recipes in a year, it would cause you to swear a lot too! And yes, Julie did complain about her job but come on- who doesn’t? I found her memoir refreshingly honest and realistic and above all, a reminder that the project was not as idealised as the film makes out.

Don’t let the bad reviews of this wonderful book put you off. The project is Julie Powell’s attempt to save her soul and revitalise her life, coming to terms with who she is, and how food can transform and bring love into your life. Her sense of humour and determination makes the novel an exciting, inspirational read that puts an interesting twist on mastering the art of french cooking.

Rating: 3/5

Do I recommend you to read it? Definitely, whether you enjoy cooking or not!

Genre: memoir