This month’s selection was Julie & Julia. Wendy and I have not yet had any discussions about this selection so I am interested in what she has to say about it. I have to say I was rather disappointed in this book. Glad to have read it but not really one I will recommend. It isn’t bad, though, I wish her language was better. It was all the belly-aching and depressing comments and finding so many things wrong with life rather than finding fulfillment in achievement and a loving husband. Pretty sad.
The premise of the book is based on a blog that Julie Powell wrote during a single year. In that year, she determined to make, for better or worse, all of Julia Child’s recipes from Mastering the Art of French Cooking. A noble feat to attempt and I imagine it was really quite an interesting year. She blogged each morning after having cooked the night before. I would love to have read a ton more about the actual process of the cooking and the successes and failures of the recipes. This book really skipped most of that, though.
So, the discussion questions now. (These questions are from LitLovers.)
1. Julie has such a remarkable relationship with Julia Child, despite never having met her. What did you think of the relationship that Julie built in her mind? And why does it not matter, in some sense, when Julie finds out that Julia wasn’t an admirer of hers or the Project?
I don’t really consider what Julie has in her mind as a “relationship.” She has created this image of a person, expectations of her, based on a book and I don’t guess there is anything wrong with that. If a book is well written, especially if the person is well known as Julia Child is, then there is a tendency to assume you have a relationship/friendship with that person when really it is just all in your head. I think that is why it doesn’t really matter in the end that Julia Child did not care for The Project that Julie undertook. It was a personal project that had nothing to do with Julia Child, really; The Project was all about Julie.
2. Throughout the book, various people become involved with the Project: Julie’s husband, her friends, and several of her family members. Discuss the different roles each played in the Project. Which people were most helpful and supportive? Who was occasionally obstructionist?
Julie’s husband was a definite support for her. He worked her through some of her down days and disappointments, keeping her going when it really might have been better to throw the towel in. Her friends and her husband, and even her brother some, went to incredible lengths to hunt down ingredients, eat disagreeable foods, and sit through late night waits. Her mother, on the other hands, was definitely not a support for her, telling her she was going to fail.
3. Did you find Julie to be a likeable character? Did you relate to her insecurities, anxieties, and initial discontent? Why do you think it is that she was able to finish the Project despite various setbacks?
I did not find Julie likeable at all. Her language was a big disappointment and she spent a large portion of the book complaining and talking about how bad life was. The only reason she undertook this project was because she was depressed and then she bellyached about it all the time. I have no idea why she finished The Project. She didn’t seem proud of the fact that she did. It seemed to be unsatisfying to her that she accomplished that huge goal.
4. If someone were to ask you about this book, how would you describe it? Is it a memoir of reinvention? An homage to Julia Child? A rags-to-riches story? A reflection on cooking and the centrality of food in our lives? Or is it all (or none) of these?
I would describe it, honestly, as a depressing book about someone’s disappointments in life. I don’t think any of the descriptions in the question are good for this book. It is nice that Julie completed such a huge undertaking and that she accomplished something. It is nice that she got a book deal out of it. But, really, the story itself is depressing and not very enjoyable.
5. Did Julie’s exploits in her tiny kitchen make you want to cook? Or did they make you thankful that you don’t have to debone a duck or sauté a liver? Even if your tastes may not coincide with Julia Child’s recipes, did the book give you a greater appreciation of food and cooking?
None of these really fit how this book made me feel about cooking. Reading Julia Child’s memoirs definitely made me want to cook more and appreciate all of the wonderful helps we have but this book? Not so much.
6. At various points in the book, Julie finds that cooking makes her question her own actions and values. What did you make of her lobster guilt, for example, or her thoughts on extracting bone marrow? Have you ever encountered these issues while cooking, or while going through other everyday motions of life? Have you come to conclusions similar to or different from Julie’s?
I thought that her thoughts regarding the lobster and bone marrow were disturbing. It is an animal. Nothing more. To equate that with murder and to try to make so much out of it? That seemed more like a plea for attention that any true feelings. I skipped a large part of that chapter because it seemed so pathetic.
7. When Julie began the Project, she knew little to nothing about blogging. What do you think blogging about her experiences offered her? Does writing about events in your life help you understand and appreciate them more? Do you think the project would have gone differently if the blog hadn’t gained so much attention? Who was the blog mainly for, Julie or her readers?
Blogging definitely helps you get your thoughts and emotions out of your head but this book was not at all about the blogging. It mentioned it a couple of times but that was probably the biggest disappointment about this book. It really didn’t talk about the cooking or the blogging. I would have loved to have read her blog entries. Maybe they would have been more interesting. I am certain that the blog helped propel her through those difficult recipes that she really didn’t want to do and knowing folks were out there rooting her on was helpful.
This one is not worth your time. There is so much out there that is a much more enjoyable read. Head over to Ladybug Daydreams now and read Wendy’s thoughts about this book. I haven’t read them yet so I will be heading over there right after I hit publish on this one. 🙂
The month of October I will be posting some thoughts about Ben-Hur, which I just finished reading. We are not going to have an official book club selection because this is going to be quite a busy month for both Wendy and I. So we’ll take the posting date in October off but I will be sharing the next selection at that time. You won’t want to miss it!