Pros: An in depth look at Julia the Person
Cons: Sometimes drifted into unnecessary asides
It’s hard to imagine Julia Childs as anything other than a famous chef and author—her persona just seems to radiate Kitchen-chic. Yet, the story of Julia finding herself is richer than you would expect. From her privileged childhood, to her socialite youth, to her work in the forerunner of America’s Central Intelligence Agency, to the eventual uniting with the love of her life, Paul, Julia’s tale is one for the books.
Even before finding her home in the kitchen, Julia was the center of attention. Her energy, zest for life, and dramatic-flair just seemed to absorb everyone around her. However, despite being surrounded by people and places that would make others envious, Julia never quite felt at home.
In “Dearie,” author Bob Spitz, explores Julia-the-person, and not just Julia-the-celebrity. He does a wonderful job of sharing Julia’s early life, and family makeup, which helps lay the foundation for us to more fully understand Julia.
You end up feeling for Julia, and wanting her to succeed. Though she lived a long, privileged life, the struggles of a person trying to find herself and balancing social and familial obligations is something that most readers can empathize with.
Since most people only know Julia as a famed television personality and renowned chef, it is easy to forget that she too was an everyday-Jane who had to overcome adversity and strive for success. The author doesn’t reveal some spectacular magical formula for success. Rather, we just see how life sometime unfolds to create a star.
As for specifics of the book, it was a typical biography. It was no longer than most and it was a little dense and dry. But the author does a decent job of brightening the mundane by highlighting entertaining details from Julia’s life. The author also makes a special effort to use imagery—sometimes bordering on flowery prose—to share Julia’s life. For those with ties to New England, the book often felt like the voice of a lonely tour guide, dressed in period-attire, explaining the importance of an historical home owned by an important local family—complete with regional references and esoteric, familial jokes that make the tour guide snigger, leaving tourists to scratch their heads.
But, perhaps, that is why the book is a good read. The author was entrusted with the history of an important figure in both American television and culinary folklore, and he embraced that commission. The ease at which he lays out the life of not only Julia but her immediate family is apparent. Because of that, the book feels somewhat quaint and personal as if the book were written for Julia's family, the McWilliams, and not Julia’s adoring public. This, again, underscores the author’s attempt at illustrating Julia the person, the sister, wife, and human, instead of Julia the celebrity. “Dearie” isn’t an exciting read, but it is a cozy book that may be nice to work through as the nights become chillier and blankets and tea make their autumn appearance.
If that is the type of book you are interested in reading, then you should definitely pick up “Dearie.”