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Appetite for Life: The Biography of Julia Child Kindle Edition

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Length: 592 pages Word Wise: Enabled
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Amazon.com Review

Noel Riley Fitch's savory new biography, Appetite for Life, reveals a woman as appealing as the good food and serious cooking she popularized. As a California girl and Smith College undergraduate, Fitch writes, Julia McWilliams was notable for her high spirits and voracious appetite. Performing intelligence work in Asia during World War II, she met Paul Child, and their marriage of mutual devotion and affection endured until his death in 1994. His postwar assignment took them to France, where she discovered her true calling.

Fitch reminds us that Child championed fresh ingredients at a time when frozen foods and TV dinners dominated American supermarket shelves, and that she demystified haute cuisine with her earthy humor and casual attitude toward mistakes. This affectionate portrait of the remarkable Julia Child reflects her fervent belief that the pleasures of the table are a natural accompaniment to the pleasures of life.

From Booklist

No one person in the U.S. improved the nation's standard of eating more than Julia Child. Her celebrity stems less from her masterwork, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, than from her perennially popular PBS television series, The French Chef. Born into a wealthy Southern California home, Julia McWilliams led a lively but pampered existence until she met Paul Child in wartime India. These two eager esthetes, for whom the worst possible sin was being boring, bonded into an extraordinarily strong marriage that helped the husband survive McCarthy's purges and gave the wife a decade to focus on her revolutionary book. Although the Childs crossed paths with dozens of political, artistic, and literary notables in postwar Paris, Marseille, Bonn, Oslo, and Washington, biographer Fitch does little but catalog names. But he does make both Childs' personalities come alive, from Paul's meticulousness to Julia's exuberant, even bawdy, gusto. Uneasy yet productive relationships among Julia and her coauthors fed off both professional and cultural differences. Fitch recounts in mortifying detail one of publishing's great gaffes: Houghton Mifflin let Mastering slip away to Knopf. Julia's evolution from author into television personality and food guru began in her fifties; now in her eighties, she continues to reshape the food world she transfigured. Mark Knoblauch

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

66 of 67 people found the following review helpful By JK on December 30, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Julia Child as a personality has long been melded with Julia Child, the cook. I watched her shows in the sixties as a child having little interest in the kitchen, but simply finding her fascinating to watch! 'The French Chef', unlike the Galloping Gourmet and others, has aged well and can still be watched with enjoyment. Why? Because Julia Child was always herself on TV, never pandering to the transient and fickle tastes of the times.
Watching Julia's various series, I learned some about her life, but eagerly purchased this book when it first appeared. Unlike some other reviewers, I delighted in this auther's literary painting of the times in which Julia has lived. To me, nothing is more disappointing in a biography than the feeling that something has been left out!
This book demonstrates that though her name to the public has been made by her cooking career, Julia Child is much, much more. For those who enjoy reading biographies, this will provide enjoyment regardless of whether they like cooking or not!
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27 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Florida mom on October 10, 1999
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
My husband and I listened to this book on tape (Blackstone Audio). We both loved it, and couldn't wait to get home each evening to hear the next tape in the 16-tape series. Neither of us knew much about Julia Child previously, and we are both very grateful to have 'Appetite for Life' open our eyes to a truly inspirational American. Julia can look for us in one of those long, long lines of adoring fans at her next book signing.
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53 of 58 people found the following review helpful By KateMc on July 17, 2004
Format: Paperback
As a great American icon, Julia Child deserves a great biography, but if this book is any indication, she may have to write her own. Although the book provides a lot of interesting detail, the author often fails to thread them into any cohesive fashion, and page after page is factoid upon factoid with no apparent organizing principle. Also far too much time is spent tediously detailing the guest lists for dozens of Child dinner parties, making much of the book sound like one of those dreadful society columns filled with the names of party goers and their various social and educational connections. This is what happens when an author, working off of the papers of her subject, is unable to rise above the reportage level to separate the wheat from the chaff.
I'll give the author credit for doing a lot of research and providing an intimate glimpse at the Child marriage and the interesting figure of Paul Child himself. It also does a good job of taking us through the painstaking 9-year process of writing and rewriting "Mastering the Art of French Cooking". But as for a well-organized transcendant portrait of Julia herself, this one is missing the touch of a master.
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37 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Christine Burmeister on August 6, 2008
Format: Paperback
I love Julia Child, have and use her cookbooks, have read the autobiography/memoir written with her nephew(?) and was thrilled to come upon this book in a local bookstore, marked down to $6 nonetheless...The first paragraph was convoluted and not catchy, but still, anything Julia...

However, you get what you pay for in this case. This has to be one of the sloppier books I've read, it seems to me as if the author got through the first draft, couldn't stand to look at it again, and it was somehow published without ever being edited. It is full of parenthetical asides, long uninteresting descriptions, and flat out mistakes. At one point the author writes how it was easier for the young Julia and her friend to steal cigarettes from a parent than cigars, and says 'therefore they smoked more cigars'. Hmm? I wish it was some statement that they loved the challenge, but it is obviously simply an error.

As a Julia fan, I am reading it just for the info, but I would rather just have the primary source material. One of the wonderful things about biography is that often the author is able to weave the history into the incredible pattern that is the finished life. In this one, the author just seems to be pointing out one thing after the other, giving no weight to anything, and showing no discernment. Disappointing.

If you think this is a well written biography, read Titan. Then compare.
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30 of 33 people found the following review helpful By GW (Gina) on July 7, 2009
Format: Paperback
I've read the reviews & am sorry there were so many negitive ones.
The biggest complaint seems to be that the book is poorly written.
(Well... I for one do NOT have a problem with parenthetical expression. In fact, I am a proponent & an advocate of this handy device. I am, not only, a continual, continuous , constant , incessant, perpetual & perennial PRACTIONER.....I bought the company!) But I digress.

Anyway, I've read two other books about J.C.(My Life in France and Backstage with Julia) and THIS one was my favorite. The backstage book focused on the author & didn't appeal to me.(However, it WAS useful for the last stages of Julia's life & her death, as the big book was written some years before Julia's death.)

My Life in France is a lovely book but glosses over some of the "warts" in Julia's life.

No, this biography is the one I'm adding to my bookshelf. (And being from Pasadena myself I loved the neighborhood details & could picture EXACTLY where she lived & played as a child).

Incidentally, I ran into Julia a couple of times. Once here is Pasadena at the local cookware shop and again, years later, at the farmer's market in Santa Barbara. She was a cooking icon and an amazing woman.

One question: Why is reviewer Mark Wilden from Frisco SO HOSTILE??
People can check out this book from their local library
& it won't cost them nothin' but a little time.
By the way, Mark, anyone who likes Bluegrass is OK by me.
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