Thursday, August 06, 2009

Julie & Julia by Julie Powell

I had no intention of reviewing Julie Powell's book since I thought everyone knew about it with the movie, Julie & Julia coming out with Meryl Streep. But, when a librarian friend told me she didn't know there had been a book, I thought I'd at least give a short summary.

Julie & Julia is subtitled "365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen: How One Girl Risked Her Marriage, Her Job, & Her Sanity to Master the Art of Living". And, Julie Powell actually did risk all of that. At twenty-nine she was married, living in a small apartment in New York City, working a number of temp jobs that eventually turned into a secretarial job for a government agency. She had a group of odd friends, spent evenings drinking, worrying about having a baby before it was too late. Frankly, Julie's life was a little boring. On a trip home, she swiped her mother's copy of Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking, the first step in a year-long project, without even realizing it. When she tried a recipe from it, and her husband, Eric, complimented her and suggested culinary school, she made the mistake of saying maybe she'd just cook her way through the book. And, then she started blogging about it.

Julie Powell is a disaster in this book. Her life, her apartment, her friends, and her language in the book and blog are disastrous. Her husband is the saving grace of the book, and of her life. With Eric's encouragement, she plows her way through the year, and the recipes. Somewhere along the way, she finds a cheering section on her blog, and attracts the attention of the media. And, she learns a lesson about looking for the joy in life.

To be honest, I read Julie & Julia because I want to see the movie. I can't wait to see Meryl Streep as Julia Child. Reading the book was like watching a NASCAR race, waiting for the giant crash. Even though you know it's not right to watch the crash, you can't look away, watching it over and over. It's a cliché that's been used often before, nothing original in that comment. But, Julie Powell's life was a disaster, and I agreed with some of her blog readers who tired of her language. She did a wonderful job, though, with the imaginary conversations between Paul and Julia Child. Julie & Julia is the story of a woman who triumphed, completed a tough goal with the help of her husband and friends. I wouldn't necessarily recommend it. I hope I can recommend the movie.
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The Rest of the Story - My nephew, Ben, is in his second year of cooking school. He makes, and markets, a barbeque sauce called Gentle Ben's. Ben already saw the movie, and enjoyed it. Here's the follow-up from his mother. "The other day on the news I heard a promo to enter your sauce recipe in a contest at a restaurant at an upscale shopping area in Perrysburg (Ohio). I suggested to Ben that he do that, and he did. All he had to do was enter on line and tell them the ingredients for his sauce. Tuesday he got an email that he was one of the five finalists in the contest and he had to come to the restaurant yesterday to prepare his sauce. He got two tickets to the screening of Julie & Julia and a few other things. The winner was to have their sauce used for a week at the restaurant. Ben and his father went up to the contest. They took all the premeasured ingredients with them, but were able to just open a jar. There had been 40 recipes submitted, five were finalists. One didn't show, one withdrew because the restaurant is an Asian grill (we didn't know that either) and they don't have stoves. This person needed to cook her sauce on a stove. So, three people competed and Ben won! He got ten tickets to the movie, a copy of a book about Julia Child, a Julie & Julia apron, tote bag and book light (can you tell the contest was to promote the movie?) and they will use his sauce next week. He also got a gift certificate to the restaurant."

So, congratulatins, Ben! He and his father both said the movie was funny.



Julie Powell's blog is www.juliepowell.blogspot.com

Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen: How One Girl Risked Her Marriage, Her Job, & Her Sanity to Master the Art of Living by Julie Powell. Little, Brown & Company, ©2005. ISBN 9780641852169 (hardcover), 320p.

21 comments:

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

I got this ARC, years ago, at SEBA and Julie signed it for me. I thought the book was clever, but my mom was really turned off by the language when I gave it to her to read. I have to wonder how many readers Julie lost by using so many expletives. She could have appealed so much more to the generation who knew Julia Child firsthand.

Elizabeth
Mystery Writing is Murder

Lesa said...

Elizabeth,

I'm 52, which means I hear and read the language. That doesn't mean I use it. And, sometimes, in a movie I never even notice it, if it seems relevant to the plot. Somehow, it seems more relevant to a crime novel or adventure movie. But, a book about someone's cooking and life experiences for a year? I tired of her language. She said she received blog comments asking her to stop using it so much. And, I don't think I would have continued to read her blog. I have to hope they cleaned up her language for the film, or it's going to turn off some of the women who are the target audience for this movie.

Vivienne said...

Having not read it, I was curious when you mentioned the language she used in it. I was wondering if she was writing using foreign phrases. Now after reading the comments, I get it, she swears a lot and it sounds like it is completely unnecessary. I still want to read it though.

Lesa said...

Lots and lots of the F word, Vivienne. It's a little wearing.

Anonymous said...

I bought this in hardcover and I absolutely loved it. I'm usually sensitive to the language issue but I confess that I do not even recall it. I was just so taken with the story. I hope the movie does it justice; it certainly looks promising!

bermudaonion said...

I listened to the abridged audio version of this book and enjoyed it but did think the author had quite the potty mouth.

Lesa said...

Hi Anonymous. I'm with you. I hope the movie does it justice. I'm hopeful!

Lesa said...

I wonder if I would have noticed the foul language as much, Bermudaonion, if I had listened to it. It jumped out at me, in reading it.

donna said...

Hi Lesa - I'm looking forward to seeing the movie - hopefully tomorrow. Interesting about the language. You hear it all the time but I try not to use it. The thing that I really found interesting was her story about how a publisher contacted her about making the blog into a book and that she got according to her a "great deal of money" for it and then it was picked up for a movie and she got money for that. I think that's amazing. I watched a trailer this morning and Meryl does a great job with Julia's voice. Anyway with the summer movie offerings right now I think it will be entertaining.
Donna

donna said...

Hi Lesa: I forgot to say that I was jealous of you spending time with J.A. Jance. I love her books and her blog is marvelous. She has such a talent for telling a story.
Donna

Lesa said...

Hi Donna,

It's all amazing, Donna. And, she says at the end of the book that she sits around the house in her pajamas now, and is a writer. I'm looking forward to the movie, but I don't know if I'll get there this weekend, or the following one.
Can't wait to hear what you think. You should come back here, and let us know.

J.A. Jance is a wonderful storyteller, isn't she? Just as good in person.

Anonymous said...

Looking forward to seeing this movie - i loved the book.

I'll be waiting for your review!!!

Taylov

Bing Google, Google Bing - Why not get them both and Twitter on the new http://www.Infospace.com

Lesa said...

I'm glad you loved the book. Since I don't review movies, you should come back and tell us what you think!

Luanne said...

The movie trailer looks so good, we'll have to see if it lives up to it's promise.

Lesa said...

You're right, Luanne. The trailer looks fun.

http://consciouscat.net said...

I'm about halfway through the book, and I'm enjoying it. (However, I may never eat lobster again.....I stopped eating red meat after reading Robin Cook's "Toxin" about twenty years ago, but the chapter on lobsters in this book was far more disturbing for an animal lover like me!).

I, too, love the angle that the publisher discovered her blog and wanted it turned into a book. This is the second book I read this year that started out as a blog - Shreve Stockton's "The Daily Coyote" (which I happen to think is far more deserving of a movie deal than "Julie and Julia" :-).

I hope the movie will do this book justice. I usually end up disappointed with movies based on books.

Lesa said...

Thanks, Consciouscat. My brother-in-law & nephew liked the movie, but they never read the book. I'll have to look for The Daily Coyote.

Chrystal K. said...

I think I might actually like to see this movie.

Lesa said...

I'm hoping to go Sunday, Chrystal. We'll see how that works out.

Tracey said...

Loved the movie! (No foul language; they must have cleaned it up). Now I'm anxious to read the book!

Lesa said...

They did clean up the language for the movie, Tracey. Terrific movie, wasn't it?