Daily Archives: June 30, 2009

Adult books: one yummy, one lovely


It’s been months since I’ve picked up an adult book, and I decided to ease my way back into a little “grown up reading” with two titles that have been on my list for ages, both of them pitched just right for early summer reading. (I don’t see either of these titles as having real crossover potential, but I’m still allowed to review them because I make the rules!)

Julie and Julia is a fun, “imagine yourself in this situation,” true story about Julie Powell’s crazy year spent making every single recipe in Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking from yummy desserts to stomach-churning dishes like poached eggs in aspic. Stuck in her life, and terribly disappointed in herself for feeling that she hadn’t achieved much of note in her thirty years, Powell decided to start this project to inject purpose into her days. What began on a whim ended up taking over Powell’s life and changing it for the better (the life changing happened after making it through the aspic chapter in MtAoFC). I picked this book in part because I’m into food writing, and also because of the upcoming film starring the adorable Amy Adams as Powell and the perfectly-cast Meryl Streep as Child. Take a look at the trailer:

If you are even a little bit obsessive in nature (ahem), and if you fancy yourself a foodie, you will probably find yourself envying Powell’s inspired/deranged idea. You will certainly find some laughs in her book, and she writes with a feisty honesty that appealed to me. Just a note – it seems that some people really hated Powell’s book, calling it boring / poorly written / self-absorbed and I can’t say that I agree. I’m thinking that said people were just jealous of the all of the attention Powell won through blogging about the project. Julie and Julia was entertaining and it made me want to spend more time cooking this summer. It made me think about why some people cook, and how the type of foods we cook define us.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is every bit as lovely as everyone is telling you. It follows the experiences of a writer, Juliet Ashton, who by chance, comes to know a group of Guernsey inhabitants who share with her their stories of the years of German occupation. She travels to the island to research her next book, and when she gets there, she finds much more than she expected. I’ll just chime into the chorus of praise. Here are all of the things I love about it:

1) It’s an epistolary novel (love them love them love them!). Do I need to explain this? Consider a few other epistolary novels worth cheering about: Ella Minnow Pea (Mark Dunn), Feeling Sorry for Celia (Jaclyn Moriarty), A Bottle in the Gaza Sea (Valerie Zenatti), 84 Charing Cross Road (Helene Hanff).

2) The tone is warm and quite often humorous, and you’ll put it down with a sigh of contentment, but the authors (Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows) reveal the horror of the war in numerous short scenes and tales throughout the novel, so that I’d say the overall effect is more poignant than heartwarming.

3) It’s a book about books – why they matter, our relationships to and with them, how they can bring people together.

I enjoyed every page. Read it if you haven’t already. I’m guessing it will find a place on your shelf of favourites.