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Dearie: The Remarkable Life of Julia Child Hardcover – Deckle Edge, August 7, 2012


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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Featured Essay: Author Bob Spitz on Dearie

Because Julia Child is such a familiar and beloved presence in our culture, it is amazing how much there was left to learn about her. Julie and Julia, along with Julia's lovely memoir My Life in France only scratched the surface of this remarkable and fascinating woman who actually launched PBS (really!) and defined the American palate. For much of her adolescence and throughout her twenties, Julia was something of a lost soul. She burned with a desire to have an impact on the world but had no idea how to make that happen or what field she might excel in. It disappointed her that she was nothing more than what she called "a social butterfly," without a goal. "I felt I had particular and unique gifts," she wrote in her diary, "that I was meant for something, and was like no one else." How right she was! But she weathered many misadventures before those gifts began to materialize.

Oddly, everything began to coalesce for Julia in Ceylon, of all places. At the outbreak of World War II, still without a sense of purpose, she volunteered for government service and was shipped overseas as a member of the OSS, America's burgeoning spy agency that later became the CIA. She worked in its Registry, under "Wild Bill" Donovan, and was responsible for the location and movements of every U.S. spy operating in the Southeast Asia theater.

In Ceylon, Julia also met her future husband, Paul Child, who worked in a capacity similar to hers. Initially, Julia had had a hard time finding true love--it took her awhile. Back home, the heir to the Los Angeles Times had proposed to her on several occasions, but he struck Julia as too bland for her outsized spirit. She was a big person (over 6'3") with a big personality and couldn't be contained in the expected role of "the little woman." I found it very moving when she finally found true love, although she was still adrift about what her life purpose would be.

A lunch in France changed everything. It was a powerful moment when she hit on her true calling at the age of forty. In the book, I delve into the extraordinary path Julia followed to create eye-poppingly delicious food and introduce it to an American public that was starving for a new, imaginative and creative way to cook. From there, it was through engaging force of her once-troublesome outsized personality that she went on to have a profound impact on the way people eat--and live.

Review

  
"A biography perfectly suited to its subject -- as lively, fascinating, and singular as Julia Child herself."
–Daniel Okrent, author of Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition

“It’s a revelation.”
– Lev Grossman, Time Magazine  

“Spitz captures another side of [Julia’s] complex personality: her fierce diligence in mastering the science as well as the art of cooking through detailed experimentation and her concern to translate the preparation of complex French recipes for readers in America . . . An engrossing biography of a woman worthy of iconic status.”
Kirkus Review (starred) 

“A rollicking biography that captures the vision, pluck and contagious exuberance that were the essence of Julia Child”
– People Magazine 

 “In this affectionate and entertaining tribute to the witty, down-to-earth, bumptious, and passionate host of The French Chef, Spitz (The Beatles) exhaustively chronicles Child’s life and career from her childhood in California through her social butterfly flitting at Smith and her work for a Pasadena department store to her stint in government service, her marriage to Paul Child, and her rise to become America’s food darling with the publication of Mastering the Art of French Cooking and her many television shows. . . Released to coincide with Child’s centenary, Spitz’s delightful biography succeeds in being as big as its subject.”
Publishers Weekly (starred)

“The most engaging celebrity biography we’ve read in years . . . Spitz manages to convey the vigor, curiosity, confidence and booming voice of a truly remarkable woman as if she is sitting at the kitchen table with you. . . Spitz is a fantastic writer.” – LA Weekly

“A much-appreciated, well timed gift to us all . . . Julia has never been more alive in the hearts and minds of those who grew up with her and drank her dreams.” – The Huffington Post

“In what is by far the most substantial new book on Child, Bob Spitz draws a lively, affectionately detailed portrait . . . [with] the kind of language, slangy and salty, that Child would have enjoyed and might have used herself.” – Wall Street Journal 


"Spitz gives us plenty of the wacky one-liners that endeared Child to her television audience, and a warm, nuanced portrait. But his bigger achievement is in setting her career against the most significant movements of the 20th century, from McCarthyism to the sexual revolution to the greening of America. He reveals how she helped redefine domesticity in the media age, transforming the way we cook, eat and think about food. . . A consideration not only of her life but of her place in 20th century American history, the book makes a strong case for Child as a 'cultural guerrilla' on par with Andy Warhol, Bob Dylan and Helen Gurley Brown." – Newsday

 
“After wiping your drool off the page, you might wonder where Spitz uncovered such narrative gold . . . Author and subject almost become one, as Spitz channels the spirit of Child in his own words. . . His detailed research into mid-century American cooking helps us understand why exactly Child was such a big deal” – Becky Krystal, Washington Post
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 576 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf (August 7, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307272222
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307272225
  • Product Dimensions: 6.8 x 1.8 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (366 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #80,005 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

133 of 140 people found the following review helpful By takingadayoff TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 7, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
It's amazing that there are so many good biographies of Julia Child. It's also remarkable that all the good ones have something new to bring to her familiar story. The latest is Dearie by Bob Spitz, and as I began the book, I was afraid I was in for a whitewashed version of Julia Child, if not a hagiography. But no - quite the contrary.

As is often the case, the obligatory childhood history is not the most compelling part of the book. Julia McWilliams grew up in privileged circumstances in Pasadena, California, then went to college back east at Smith, where she indulged in hijinks involving as much smoking and drinking as possible. The Prohibition lasted until 1933 and Julia graduated in 1934, so alcohol had even more of a mystique for Julia and her classmates than for most college students.

The story of her career with the OSS during World War II has been told fascinatingly in Jennet Conant's A Covert Affair: Julia Child and Paul Child in the OSS. The story of her romance with Paul Child, marriage, and experiences in France has been told best by Julia herself in My Life in France, written by her grandnephew Alex Prud'homme. Her life from 1952-1989 has been documented entertainingly by Julia and her friend Avis DeVoto in their letters to each other, edited by Joan Reardon in As Always, Julia.

What Bob Spitz reveals in Dearie, even as he shows great affection for Julia, is Julia's Evil Twin.
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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Jeanne Tassotto VINE VOICE on December 1, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Calling Julia Child 'remarkable' is an understatement. She took a subject - food and it's proper preparation - that had interested her at first only because she, like most people, enjoyed a well prepared meal. She delved deeper into the subject because she needed something to do with her time and energy at a time when she happened to be near where she could learn more about the subject and was financially able to pursue her investigations. The remarkable aspect came into play when she took what was essentially a hobby and turned it into a lifelong mission to change the way Americans regarded food. She inspired American cooks to not look upon their kitchens as sterile laboratories with an obsession on hygienic conditions, or where quick and convenient were more important than flavorful and satisfying.

For generations of American cooks Julia Child was the person who taught us the techniques that we most certainly did not learn at home. She gave us the courage to attempt to make foods beyond the basic meat and potatoes cooked into submission that we had grown up on by showing us that cakes did not necessarily come from a box and that jello was not a part of a fine dining experience. Without her there would have been no Food Network or celebrity chefs who encourage todays cooks to attempt more interesting, adventurous meals in their own homes.

It is too bad that the biographer does not live up to his subject. While author Spitz goes on and on about how Julia researched, refined and repeated each recipe until she was convinced that she had reached it's optimum level, that every single detail was correct he apparently did not take any where near that level of care for his own work.
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66 of 75 people found the following review helpful By Brendan Moody TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 25, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The most revealing remark in Bob Spitz's new biography of Julia Child comes tucked away in the "Sources and Acknowledgments" section at the very end. Describing the admiration he felt after time spent with the celebrity cook in Sicily in 1992, he writes, "If I have to admit to one prejudice confronting this book, it is that I had a powerful crush on her. Sorry. Deal with it." Spitz's lighthearted aside reflects the deeper truth that his is not a particularly penetrating approach to biography. The mildly worshipful tone of the subtitle's reference to Child's "remarkable life" permeates the book, and traits that a different biographer might have investigated more closely-- the rapid, unapologetic decision-making that sometimes verged on ruthlessness, the seemingly easy acceptance of everything life threw at her-- are passed over. With the exception of a single, poisonously bitter rival, no one ever has anything bad to say about the woman. But that is probably just as well. Not many readers will come to a biography of Julia Child looking for intense psychological insight or its poor relation, gossip. What most will want is simply the story behind a charming icon of American cooking, and that, frequent stylistic bumps in the road aside, is what Spitz delivers.

The defining fact of Child's life prior to her rise to fame is that she came from money. From her childhood home in Pasadena to college at Smith to work for the OSS in Washington D. C. and such overseas postings, both hers and her husband's, as Ceylon, China, and Paris, she moved through a series of glamorous locales, described, sometimes to excess, by Spitz, that were full of famous and influential people.
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