Thursday, January 13, 2011

Review: As Always, Julia

Editor: Joan Reardon
Publisher/Format: e-galley, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 424 pages
Subject:  life in Europe in the 2nd half of 20th century
Setting: France, Germany, Norway, Boston
Genre: correspondence
Source: e-galley from publisher via Net Galley

While I've enjoyed watching Julia Child occasionally on TV, and I own a copy of her famous cookbook, I have always felt somewhat intimidated by this matriarch of elegant meal prep.

"As Always, Julia" brings Julia Child to earth, and makes her not only approachable, but warm, human, funny, intelligent and someone you'd want to have for a next door neighbor. I had no idea who Avis DeVoto was until I read this book of letters between these two. I have not yet seen the movie in which she evidently becomes known to Americans, but she is introduced quite well in this collection of letters. Covering a span of over 30 years, Avis and Julia kept up a witty, no-holds-barred trans-Atlantic correspondence covering everything from how to poach fish, how to write, edit and publish a cookbook, the chilling impact of McCarthyism on American life, finding housing in France, Norway, Germany, to whether or not to use a pressure cooker for long simmering soups and stews.

Starting as pen-pals and continuing for several years before they had a chance to meet, the letter-writing cemented a friendship that coincidentally involved an unofficial business relationship, and reveals two well-educated, very talented women living out their lives in roles new to both of them. Their letters were at times about subjects many would consider banal, but they offer a glimpse into a world all but forgotten in today's high-tech environment.  It is a book that is big, bold, heavy and not easily read in one sitting.  Therein lies the beauty of it -- it can be read and savored, like a good wine, in small sips over a lingering period of time. For fans of Julia Child, it is a must read.

Joan Reardon has done a yeoman job of editing and compiling the correspondence to make it interesting, engaging, and compelling.

Special thanks to Houghton Mifflin for making the e-galley available for review.


  1. After seeing the movie, Julie and Julia, I became interested in learning more about Julia Child. I read My Life in France and found her to be a fascinating person. This one sounds good, too. I love a good epistolary book.

  2. My father and I did pretty good imitations of Julia Child. We always watched her TV show and laughed ourselves silly. I loved the Movie "Julie and Julia" and wished my father had lived to see it.

  3. I can't wait to read this! I'll savor it in small sips, at your suggestion!


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