Saturday, August 4, 2012

Book Review: Dearie: The Remarkable Life of Julia Child By Bob Spitz

As ya'll know I was a later arrival to the 'cult of Julia', but the more I learn about her, the more I really admire her and wish I had known her! So I jumped at the chance to read/review this new book about her!

dearie cover

Synopsis: It’s rare for someone to emerge in America who can change our attitudes, our beliefs, and our very culture. It’s even rarer when that someone is a middle-aged, six-foot three-inch woman whose first exposure to an unsuspecting public is cooking an omelet on a hot plate on a local TV station.  And yet, that’s exactly what Julia Child did.  The warble-voiced doyenne of television cookery became an iconic cult figure and joyous rule-breaker as she touched off the food revolution that has gripped America for more than fifty years.

Now, in Bob Spitz’s definitive, wonderfully affectionate biography, the Julia we know and love comes vividly — and surprisingly — to life.  In Dearie, Spitz employs the same skill he brought to his best-selling, critically acclaimed book The Beatles, providing a clear-eyed portrait of one of the most fascinating and influential Americans of our time — a woman known to all, yet known by only a few.

At its heart, Dearie is a story about a woman’s search for her own unique expression.  Julia Child was a directionless, gawky young woman who ran off halfway around the world to join a spy agency during World War II.  She eventually settled in Paris, where she learned to cook and collaborated on the writing of what would become Mastering the Art of French Cooking, a book that changed the food culture of America.   She was already fifty when The French Chef went on the air —  at a time in our history when women weren’t making those leaps.  Julia became the first educational TV star, virtually launching PBS as we know it today; her marriage to Paul Child formed a decades-long love story that was romantic, touching, and quite extraordinary.

A fearless, ambitious, supremely confident woman, Julia took on all the pretensions that embellished tony French cuisine and fricasseed them to a fare-thee-well, paving the way for everything that has happened since in American cooking, from TV dinners and Big Macs to sea urchin foam and the Food Channel.  Julia Child’s story, however, is more than the tale of a talented woman and her sumptuous craft.  It is also a saga of America’s coming of age and growing sophistication, from the Depression Era to the turbulent sixties and the excesses of the eighties to the greening of the American kitchen.  Julia had an effect on and was equally affected by the baby boom, the sexual revolution, and the start of the women’s liberation movement. 

On the centenary of her birth, Julia finally gets the biography she richly deserves.  An in-depth, intimate narrative, full of fresh information and insights, Dearie is an entertaining, all-out adventure story of one of our most fascinating and beloved figures.

Review:  Like Spitz, I remember watching Julia's early cooking shows on PBS with my mother. But her dishes seemed so complicated to me, that I was not enthusiastic about them at the time. Eons later (LOL), as an adult her recipes still seemed daunting and I didn't try them. But then I was told I just HAD to read the book written by her nephew, that told of her and Paul's love affair. And I admit, I got hooked on Julia! Who knew she had had such an exciting and varied life.

Spitz was the same- he was on assignment in Italy, he got the chance to meet and travel through Sicily with Julia. He found her "larger than life and full of all the personal traits one associates with her: straight talk, passion, encouragement, wit, and insight." And he got hooked on Julia too. AHA, how a musician came to write a definitive bio on Julia! 

Like Spitz, I think the thing about Julia that called to be, being older, was that her 'career' didn't begin until she 40! Can you imagine? She found her calling while living in France and attending Le Cordon Bleu. And went on to be the Master of French cooking in America. Don't we all wish for that second chance to actually find what we truly LOVE to do and be a great success at it?  And I think that is why she keeps appealing to us, even after her death. The more we read about her, the more we realize how independent and ahead of her times she was! Spitz does an excellent job in this book of showing the long path it took for her, and the difficulties she faced along the way.

Every time I think of PBS, I see Julia and Sesame Street. Can't help it- the 2 of them were such an early influence on my life, as Mom was avid we watched 'quality programming'. Reading Spitz' book was like taking a step back in time, and reliving my childhood in parts and seeing the flip side, behind the scenes life. I can't help to wonder if seeing Julia move on from her mistakes, at such a young age, was an influence on me, whether I realized it or not!

Spitz does an excellent job in bringing Julia to life as a force of modern thinking, that brought her generation and following ones, along for the ride. She showed us all how to go after our dream with zeal and gusto, and to let nothing stop us. When I look at the modern influencers of women, like Martha Stewart, I can see the line of dominoes back to Julia, and I have to smile, and wonder if she truly knew what a difference she made in all of our lives? 

if you want to see for yourself,please read this book! You will laugh and wonder along with the rest of us Julia-fanatics! 

About the AuthorBob Spitz was born, lived, went to high school and college on the same street, in Reading, Pennsylvania. Once he strayed off the block, however, his life veered into diverse and fascinating realms. A longtime musician, Spitz moved to New York in 1971, where he met a promising young songwriter named Bruce Springsteen, whom he managed and occasionally played with for the next six years. In 1978, Spitz moved on to manage Elton John in America for Dick James, eventually retiring from the music business in 1980 to pursue his love of writing. 

He is the author of seven books, including Barefoot in Babylon, the eye-opening documentary of the Woodstock Music Festival, and The Beatles, his definitive bestselling biography of the phenomenal supergroup. His magazine articles have appeared in The New York Times MagazineGQConde Nast TravelerMen's JournalIn StyleEsquire and The Washington Post. He currently lives in Connecticut, and is currently working with Graham Nash on the singer’s memoir, and will begin work, in 2013, as the biographer of President Ronald Reagan. Check out his website and Facebook pages for more.

Disclosure / Disclaimer:  I received this book free of charge, via the Amazon Vine program, for review purposes. No other compensation, monetary or in kind, has been received or implied for this post. Nor was I told how to post about it.

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