Monday, August 17, 2009

Dear Julia by Amy Bronwen Zemser

With all the hubbub about the movie Julie and Julia, this book was brought back to my attention. I had found the concept interesting when it first came out, remembered it had gotten very positive professional reviews and so I picked it up.

And I have to say, it’s a strange little book. Our heroine, Elaine, is sort of like a 60 year old woman trapped in a high school girl’s body. She has always loved to cook. Always. She especially loves to cook French food ala Julia Child’s recipe books. From age six on she’s written letters to Ms. Child detailing her difficulties mastering the techniques needed to properly prepare food, but has never mailed a single one of them. Because besides being an incredible cook, Elaine is also an incredible coward. She is shy, she lacks confidence in all areas outside of the kitchen, and she has been told from day one that cooking is not what her life will be about (regardless of the fact that it is so obviously her passion).

Elaine’s mother, a frontrunner in the feminist movement and now the holder of a high ranking government position wishes her only daughter to aspire to something other than a life "slaving" away in a kitchen. She looks down upon traditional feminine roles, ignoring the fact that the job of Chef (which is what Elaine would like to be) has actually been a male dominated profession. I found this an incredibly interesting choice made by the author who essentially uses the mother's strongly ingrained feminist beliefs to thwart the goals of our female protagonist. Of course, I should clarify that this is not an anti-feminist book at all. The mother's application is flawed, but not her feminist beliefs. There were several other humorous plays on feminism. The househusband/dad who does little other than sample Elaine's cooking and practice yoga in the basement. Elaine's five brothers whom are all named rather femininely: Robyn, Leslie, Lynn, Francis, and Chris. Elaine's friend's lesbian lawyer mothers who can't cook to save their lives.

The catalyst in the book is one Lucida Sans, and no, not the computer font.

Meanwhile, growing up on the very same town at the very same time, and attending the very same high school as Elaine Hamilton, there lived a girl named Isadora Wilhelminetta Fischburger, a name that was so terrible she changed it to Lucida Sans, which is the name of a font on the computer (a font that Isadora, or Lucida, as we shall now call her, thought was the most beautiful name in the entire world).

When Elaine meets Lucida, things begin to change…as they undoubtedly must when one meets someone who names themself after a computer font.

There is a very breezy, easygoing, not terribly realistic tone in this book. And it really works. It is incredibly funny. I laughed out loud several times. This is one of those books where you pretty much know the ending - you just know that it will have a happily resolved finish. Because of this, all is dependant on the journey and the author does a bang up job taking you on several pleasant and humorous twists and turns.

What this book does not do (or at least did not do for me) is make you hungry for the cooking of Julia Child – which seems strangely dependant on duck. Blech!

Book Source: Library Copy


Carol said...

Very nice review it is and i felt this book little strange..
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Kelly said...

Okay, you sold me. :) Going on my holds list now!

Patti said...

it was really cute. Very strange, but very cute. I enjoyed it.

Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed this book. It was unique and inspiring,and it really makes you think.I think this is a good "coming of age" book that would do well in schools.