Review: Julie and Julia

November 1, 2010 Comments Off on Review: Julie and Julia

I finally finished this book, after having prematurely reviewed it on Facebook. Happily (or not), the review holds. This book is terrible. Powell is a good writer with a good idea, and it’s a lot of fun to read, but she is a terrible, terrible person. The most charitable explanation is that she has at least one serious psychological issue…the least charitable explanation is that she is a straight-up bitch. Most of the book is supposed to be wittily self-deprecating, in a “check this out, I’m just a normal person attempting something benignly insane with comical results” kind of way. Unfortunately, what is supposed to be self-deprecating comes off as self-loathing—she obviously hates her job and possibly both herself and her poor husband—and what is supposed to be witty comes off as manic and high-maintenance.

One part that stands out particularly is her narration of trying to make some kind of unusual mayonnaise. It’s frustrating and she begins to sob, utter guttural screams, and throw things. In the meantime, her husband is waiting anxiously for news of an aunt who may or may not live in a city in Saudi Arabia that had just been bombed. It is a terrible, whiny, self-centered scene that reflects very, very badly on her. Finally her husband comes in, shakes her, and shouts, “IT’S ONLY MAYONNAISE” (at which the reader wants to cheer and respond, “What took you so long?”). After this, Powell is obviously proud of how discreet she becomes. She tells us how the ricer broke but she did not throw the pieces on the floor, how the pastry bag split but she did not scream, as if we, too, should be proud of her for acting more like an adult than a three-year-old with anger management issues.

She tells us how nice her husband is to her, but in light of everything else she says about herself and about their relationship, we begin to wonder if maybe something is wrong with him, too. This woman has no redeeming qualities—at no point in the book do any of her actions or conversations allow us to see why a sweet, patient man would have ever been attracted to her in the first place, much less choose to stay with her over the course of a stressful, bitchy year. She is incomprehensibly horrible, in ways that normal people can’t relate to, and this taints the book the way rancid butter would taint one of her precious French recipes. Please do not buy this book or the movie (kudos to Amy Adams for making the best of an awful part) or support this woman in any way. If anyone deserves to work a thankless secretary job for her entire life, she does.

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