by Bob Spitz
First sentence: “‘Now, dearie, I will require a hot plate for my appearance on Professor Duhamel’s program.'”
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I have to admit that I didn’t grow up as a Julia Child groupie. Oh, I knew who she was, but I wasn’t that into food (I was more into sports) or cooking, and what she did didn’t interest me. My parents may have watched her French Chef show — I don’t know — but it’s not like she was an influence in my upbringing.
Then I read Julie and Julia and, later, My Life in France, and I became an unabashed Julia Child fan. So, of course, when the new biography came out (on August 15, her 100th birthday), I had to read it. (Granted, I wasn’t going to read it just yet, but a friend thrust it in my hands and said it was due back at the library in 2 weeks, so, really, what else was I going to do?)
Spitz admits, in the acknowledgements, that he is not really an unbiased reporter of Julia’s life. He met her in 1992 and developed a bit of a crush on her through their interaction. So, when the opportunity fell into his lap to write a biography of her, he, of course, jumped at the chance.
This really is a comprehensive (and by default, huge, coming in at 530 pages) biography: from her early upbringing in Pasadena, California, through her stint with the OSS (which really is much less glamorous than it seems), through her marriage to Paul Child and their years in France (which Spitz kind of glossed over, but I didn’t mind, since I’d read about that already), and through all her various incarnations in television, up through Paul’s, and her own, death.
But Spitz is an excellent writer, and his enthusiasm for Julia shows. He really delves into her life, drawing her both in broad strokes (she really WAS manic, full of energy; at one point, I pointed out to Hubby that she must have been exhausting to know), and small details (the amount of work this woman did, basically up until she died, was simply amazing; also she LOVED men. Not like affairs, or anything: she was devoted to Paul; she just loved having men around.), which gave a more thorough picture of the real person behind the persona. (By the way, she adored the Dan Ackroyd Saturday Night Live skit.) Additionally, there was enough foodiness, especially later on, to keep the foody side of me happy.
It was the combination of my admiration for Julia (I admire her more the older I get; she started a completely new career at age 50, and made it work) and Spitz’s writing that made this book such a delight to read.
A must for any Julia Child fan.