Julie & Julia is one woman's account of the year she spent cooking her way through Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking. In the summer of 2002, Julie Powell was stuck in a job she hated, stuck in Long Island City--just stuck in general. Powell's challenge to herself, and the blog she wrote to chronicle it, is her effort to free herself.
I'll admit, it was both disconcerting and false-hope-bringing that I could draw so many similarities between Powell and myself. Twenty-something, lives in New York, has a far too patient husband and an extremely crappy secretarial job, gets too caught up in playing Civilization, has a predilection for swear words: any of these could apply to either one of us. In other words, one of the major draws of the book for me was any number of eerie correlations.
But beyond the "your life but better" vibe, what I found most intriguing and gripping about Julie & Julia was Powell's writing. Her writing style made me feel as though I was listening to a friend of mine with a knack for storytelling tell me her most gripping story yet. The events in Powell's life are not action-packed like, say, a Dan Brown novel, but her talent lies in her ability to make cooking and omelet as tense and thrilling as any car chase.
Which segues nicely into my only complaint about the book: Powell doesn't seem to trust her writing ability enough. For instance, I found it slightly jarring that the narrative was presented out of chronological order, something I find odd for a book that chronicles a time-limited project; much more distracting was Powell's predilection for jumping into scenes in the middle with little or no exposition, or jumping between two events with no clear dividing line.
All of this reads as unsteadiness, uncertainty on Powell's part that she can captivate her reader when the narrative necessarily focuses on repetition of essentially the same event; after all, challenging yourself to cook your way through Mastering the Art of French Cooking means that you will be cooking--and writing about--French food every day. This self doubt, however, is a shame. Her prose is captivating all on its own, and it is Powell's unique point of view that really drives the story.
But my grips are really minor, and I can say that I truly loved this book and didn't want to put it down. I'm very much looking forward to Powell's next book, and if it is even a tenth as good as Julie & Julia, I'll be flying through it in less time than it takes to make Pot Au Feu.
Now for the giveaway! Thanks to Anna and the good people at Hachette, I have five copies of Julie & Julia to give away.
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