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As Always, Julia: The Letters of Julia Child and Avis DeVoto: Food, Friendship, and the Making of a Masterpiece

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With her outsize personality, Julia Child is known around the world by her first name alone. But despite that familiarity, how much do we really know of the inner Julia?   Now more than 200 letters exchanged between Julia and Avis DeVoto, her friend and unofficial literary agent memorably introduced in the hit movie Julie & Julia, open the window on Julia’s deepest thought With her outsize personality, Julia Child is known around the world by her first name alone. But despite that familiarity, how much do we really know of the inner Julia?   Now more than 200 letters exchanged between Julia and Avis DeVoto, her friend and unofficial literary agent memorably introduced in the hit movie Julie & Julia, open the window on Julia’s deepest thoughts and feelings. This riveting correspondence, in print for the first time, chronicles the blossoming of a unique and lifelong friendship between the two women and the turbulent process of Julia’s creation of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, one of the most influential cookbooks ever written. Frank, bawdy, funny, exuberant, and occasionally agonized, these letters show Julia, first as a new bride in Paris, then becoming increasingly worldly and adventuresome as she follows her diplomat husband in his postings to Nice, Germany, and Norway.   With commentary by the noted food historian Joan Reardon, and covering topics as diverse as the lack of good wine in the United States, McCarthyism, and sexual mores, these astonishing letters show America on the verge of political, social, and gastronomic transformation.


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With her outsize personality, Julia Child is known around the world by her first name alone. But despite that familiarity, how much do we really know of the inner Julia?   Now more than 200 letters exchanged between Julia and Avis DeVoto, her friend and unofficial literary agent memorably introduced in the hit movie Julie & Julia, open the window on Julia’s deepest thought With her outsize personality, Julia Child is known around the world by her first name alone. But despite that familiarity, how much do we really know of the inner Julia?   Now more than 200 letters exchanged between Julia and Avis DeVoto, her friend and unofficial literary agent memorably introduced in the hit movie Julie & Julia, open the window on Julia’s deepest thoughts and feelings. This riveting correspondence, in print for the first time, chronicles the blossoming of a unique and lifelong friendship between the two women and the turbulent process of Julia’s creation of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, one of the most influential cookbooks ever written. Frank, bawdy, funny, exuberant, and occasionally agonized, these letters show Julia, first as a new bride in Paris, then becoming increasingly worldly and adventuresome as she follows her diplomat husband in his postings to Nice, Germany, and Norway.   With commentary by the noted food historian Joan Reardon, and covering topics as diverse as the lack of good wine in the United States, McCarthyism, and sexual mores, these astonishing letters show America on the verge of political, social, and gastronomic transformation.

30 review for As Always, Julia: The Letters of Julia Child and Avis DeVoto: Food, Friendship, and the Making of a Masterpiece

  1. 4 out of 5

    The Library Lady

    Bl**p Julie Powell and her crappy, self indulgent "Julie and Julia". Read this and My Life In France and you will get a picture of Julia Child sans four letter words or the less than interesting life of a Julia wanna be. Instead you will get the marvelous Avis de Voto. Avis is pictured in the movie "Julie and Julia" (I skipped any Powell sequences) for about 5 seconds, supposedly meeting her pen pal Julia Child for the first time in a train station. Didn't happen that way, and DeVoto was far more Bl**p Julie Powell and her crappy, self indulgent "Julie and Julia". Read this and My Life In France and you will get a picture of Julia Child sans four letter words or the less than interesting life of a Julia wanna be. Instead you will get the marvelous Avis de Voto. Avis is pictured in the movie "Julie and Julia" (I skipped any Powell sequences) for about 5 seconds, supposedly meeting her pen pal Julia Child for the first time in a train station. Didn't happen that way, and DeVoto was far more than a casual pen pal--she and Julia had been writing back and forth for years and grew to be very close friends. Avis DeVoto was instrumental in getting Julia's chef d'ouevre Mastering the Art of French Cooking published, first by advocating for her at Houghton Mifflin, and then later by persuading Alfred Knopf to publish it. One of the Childs' reasons for settling in Cambridge was that DeVoto lived there--she helped them find their house, and her connections may well have brought us "The French Chef" The letters here bring you a wonderful double portrait of two bright, creative, determined women, of the work that went into "Mastering" and of Julia Child as a PERSON. As delicious as her recipes.

  2. 5 out of 5

    stormhawk

    What a great time it was, when people not only corresponded by letter, but kept their correspondence! The journey to publishing Mastering the Art of French Cooking is fascinating in and of itself, but what makes this book more interesting is the interplay of two women who correspond "over the point of a knife," talking about their lives, their families, and politics, during a particularly rich time for it ... In the early chapter of the book McCarthy is hunting Commies under every magazine cover, What a great time it was, when people not only corresponded by letter, but kept their correspondence! The journey to publishing Mastering the Art of French Cooking is fascinating in and of itself, but what makes this book more interesting is the interplay of two women who correspond "over the point of a knife," talking about their lives, their families, and politics, during a particularly rich time for it ... In the early chapter of the book McCarthy is hunting Commies under every magazine cover, America is fighting in Korea, and Chiang Kai Shek is struggling against Mao and the Chinese Communists. The art of letter writing is lost to us, communication is stripped down to 140 characters that you share with your closest "followers," and you don't have to be at home to get a phone call ... even the simple act of making a phone call was given more consideration when long distance service was outrageously expensive and international service unheard of to consider except in the direst emergencies. Watching the friendship between Julia and Avis form, grow, and deepen is the charm of this book. If you read Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen or saw the movie, you know the story, you know about these letters, so it's a special treat to be able to read them, sharing in the life and experience of two remarkable women. The letters are peppered with explanatory footnotes, helpful to the 21st Century reader who is puzzled by the names and situations that were common knowledge to politically and culturally aware denizens of the 1950s. The footnotes enhance rather than detract from the text. Paul Child was an avid photographer, his pictures of Julia throughout the book show a younger and more vivacious view of her than we know even from PBS' The French Chef. I would have appreciated more detail in the final chapter, which talks about the what happened after Julia and Paul returned to the United States. Note to reader: you'll need snacks. These ladies talk food incessantly!

  3. 5 out of 5

    Cynthia

    What a wonderful gift Joan Reardon has given us! She’s put together the letters exchanged between Avis DeVoto and Julia Child throughout the 1950’s. The letters include contemporary politics, mostly of the US but also concerning the places Julia’s Government Service husband, Paul, was posted. They were stationed in China, Germany, and Norway and of course France. The ladies also mull over the goings on at distinguished US universities as well as Avis’ work on the fringes of the publishing world What a wonderful gift Joan Reardon has given us! She’s put together the letters exchanged between Avis DeVoto and Julia Child throughout the 1950’s. The letters include contemporary politics, mostly of the US but also concerning the places Julia’s Government Service husband, Paul, was posted. They were stationed in China, Germany, and Norway and of course France. The ladies also mull over the goings on at distinguished US universities as well as Avis’ work on the fringes of the publishing world through her writer husband Bernard, (later she herself works directly in publishing), and of course they talk about food, cooking, entertaining and heck they just flat out gossip about whatever’s on their minds. Neither of them had an official job until they were past middle age but my goodness they managed to do lots of things and meet lots of people. These were vibrant, busy women with lots of thoughts. The warmth between them is very touching. Both Avis and Julia seem to be the type of people who never met an enemy. They only found friends. This isn’t to say they weren’t real people with real problems. I almost felt disappointed when Paul Child retired and the Childs moved back to the states. Since they lived near Avis the letters ceased. Reardon supplied a few introductory paragraphs to set the context of the four sections but then she wisely got out of the way and let these two friends natter away. Included are some wonderful pictures of both of them and their friends and cooking world folks. I’d recommend having Julia’s ‘Mastering the Art of French Cooking” nearby (at lease the first volume) because you won’t be able to resist peaking in it as they discuss recipes and cooking techniques. This review was based on an eBook supplied by the publisher.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Sherri

    I was a little skeptical as to whether I would enjoy a book of letters. I thoroughly enjoyed My Life in France, and a book of letters between Julia and her friend during the time when she was working on Mastering the Art of French Cooking was too intriguing to skip. It was a delight on so many levels. I enjoyed reading Julia's thoughts unedited about cooking, the changes in cooking in the USA (such as frozen chicken breasts) and her feelings about politics, their travels, etc. I equally fell for I was a little skeptical as to whether I would enjoy a book of letters. I thoroughly enjoyed My Life in France, and a book of letters between Julia and her friend during the time when she was working on Mastering the Art of French Cooking was too intriguing to skip. It was a delight on so many levels. I enjoyed reading Julia's thoughts unedited about cooking, the changes in cooking in the USA (such as frozen chicken breasts) and her feelings about politics, their travels, etc. I equally fell for Avis De Voto. I had never heard of her or her husband. But, after reading this book, I think she was a fascinating woman - intellectual, witty, humorous and I feel fortunate to have had a peek inside the friendship of Julia and Avis. I must caution that this book is not for everyone. As much as I gobbled up the sections of the letters on politics, cooking and Mastering the Art, there were other portions of the letters that I skimmed over-people referenced that I didn't know and didn't care about (although I found it fascinating to read in Avis' letters about the people at her house for dinner such as Wallace Stegner - a dear friend of theirs - I thought wow. Just wow. A life I couldn't imagine). So...I would recommend this book for people who love all things Julia Child.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    This intimate view of the personal letters between two dear friends really unveils so much about Julia's personality. I really feel I got to know more deeply who she was as a person, not just as the iconic figure I know her to be. It also provided an interesting viewpoint of life for a woman in the 50s and early 60s. And oh how lovely correspondence used to be (especially compared with the short-hand texts and messages of today). However, it was a lot of content to get through, and I sometimes w This intimate view of the personal letters between two dear friends really unveils so much about Julia's personality. I really feel I got to know more deeply who she was as a person, not just as the iconic figure I know her to be. It also provided an interesting viewpoint of life for a woman in the 50s and early 60s. And oh how lovely correspondence used to be (especially compared with the short-hand texts and messages of today). However, it was a lot of content to get through, and I sometimes wondered if it could have been edited further to focus on highlights of the letters, but perhaps some of the magic would have been lost. Overall an enjoyable and interesting read, recommended to anyone who has an interest in Julia Child.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Mom

    I loved this close and personal look at the special friendship between Julia Child and and Avis Devoto. It was interesting to learn the depth and breadth of what it took to get Julia's books published. These two remarkable women were strong, positive role models in a time when women were only regarded as housewives. While they didn't make earth shattering discoveries or make a mark for women's rights, they were role models because they worked hard and didn't give up on achieving their goals. I h I loved this close and personal look at the special friendship between Julia Child and and Avis Devoto. It was interesting to learn the depth and breadth of what it took to get Julia's books published. These two remarkable women were strong, positive role models in a time when women were only regarded as housewives. While they didn't make earth shattering discoveries or make a mark for women's rights, they were role models because they worked hard and didn't give up on achieving their goals. I have gained a new appreciation for Julia Child after reading this book.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Lindsay

    What a book. It’s a slow read, as it should be. Julia and Avis are formidable, warm, intelligent, resourceful, and sharply politically intelligent. They’re loyal to each other in a way that will make you want to call your best girlfriend and tell her you love her. They defy all the stereotypes of a ‘50s housewife. They were informed, sometimes shrewd, power players behind their husbands and in their own right. Their daily struggles are so familiar. And on top of it all they carried out the nine What a book. It’s a slow read, as it should be. Julia and Avis are formidable, warm, intelligent, resourceful, and sharply politically intelligent. They’re loyal to each other in a way that will make you want to call your best girlfriend and tell her you love her. They defy all the stereotypes of a ‘50s housewife. They were informed, sometimes shrewd, power players behind their husbands and in their own right. Their daily struggles are so familiar. And on top of it all they carried out the nine year fight to publish their masterpiece. It also portrays the tender partnerships - and definitely equal partnerships - between the ladies and their husbands, as the men rallied around the women to lift them up to the spotlight. Avis’ voice in particular became special to me and by the close of the last letter, I felt as though I’d lost a friend.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Julie Bestry

    Oh my goodness, this was an unexpectedly good book. Obviously I thought it might be worth a flip-through, or I wouldn't have reserved it at the library and read it, but I honestly didn't expect "As Always, Julia" to be so darn good. And the best part isn't even Julia, but Avis! (No, not the car rental company.) Subtitled "Food, Friendship & the Making of a Masterpiece" is an epistolary memoir. I love epistolary novels, and enjoyed the letters of John & Abigail Adams, but never figured I'd be all Oh my goodness, this was an unexpectedly good book. Obviously I thought it might be worth a flip-through, or I wouldn't have reserved it at the library and read it, but I honestly didn't expect "As Always, Julia" to be so darn good. And the best part isn't even Julia, but Avis! (No, not the car rental company.) Subtitled "Food, Friendship & the Making of a Masterpiece" is an epistolary memoir. I love epistolary novels, and enjoyed the letters of John & Abigail Adams, but never figured I'd be all that stoked for a book of letters between Julia Child and a woman of whom I'd never heard. I'm not even a Julia Child fan and I don't cook. But I did find Julia's to be the more interesting of the sections in Julie Powell's "Julie & Julia", which is what prompted me to read Julia Child's autobiography, "My Life In France" last year. It wasn't the cooking, but the relationship between Julia and Paul Child, and between Julia and her co-writers, and the travelogue aspect of that book that I loved. But "As Always, Julia" grabbed me and never let me go. Don't like cooking? It doesn't matter! (Though if you don't like food, some aspects may bore you.) This is pen-palling at its best. It's the evolving tale of Julia in Europe and Avis, wife of Bernard Devoto, an author who, though I consider myself well-read and well-informed), was unknown to me. The book is a damned hoot. It's just the rambling letters, in the days before international or even long-distance calls were common. They write of their lives, their pains, their husbands, their work (as both women were brilliant, if unconventional "business women"), Avis' children, Julia's travels. You could read it just for the soap operatic quality of their lives, or for the decade-plus slow and sometimes-backwards progress Julia and her writing partners (the daft Louisette and the formidable Simca) made towards the eventual publishing of Mastering the Art of French Cooking. (If you know even a teeny bit about the history of the book, by the time Judith Jones makes her first, off-handed reference appearance, you're ready to whoop & holler with the realization that "NOW we're getting somewhere!" What I found most staggering about the book was that as the letters weave their way through the lives of Julia and Avis, they also weave world history into the narratives. Nobody appalled at the political upheaval and division in modern life will look at the 1950s stories of McCarthyism and Eisenhower and Kennedy and Adlai Stevenson without taking a cautiously optimistic breath and realizing it's not really THAT much worse now. And that's it -- food, politics, personal revelations (of a not very deep, but very realistic type) make up this juicy double-memoir. Editor Joan Reardon includes so many footnotes that sometimes it feels like an academic journal. It doesn't detract from the writing, but I imagine someone completely clueless about the existence of the Cuban Missile Crisis or Army-McCarthy hearings might find it useful not to have to trudge to Wikipedia to make sense of what they should have learned in school. Imagine if, 50 years from now, someone came across our emails or Facebook walls and could marvel at the seamless blending of our troubles figuring out how to handle a plumbing problem and the earthquake and tsunami in Japan and our challenges at work and our worries about whether our adult children will ever settle down in one career and get married. No book is as good as one that surprises you with how much you come to care about the characters with in, and though real-life people, Avis and Julia (and their friends and families) are intriguing characters about which I'd like to know more, not because they were special or famous, but because they are so darn relevant and real.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Julieann Wielga

    My sister is a memoir reader. Always memoirs of women. Who woman are and what they think and how to be one is always on our minds. Women's letters to other woman speak to me. I connected with Flannery O Connor as she worked through her Catholism, her writing and her lupus. I loved Catherine White's letters to Elizabeth Lawrence, one a southern gardener and one a northern writer. For the past many years I have been interested in how the making of food and community and woman's lives intertwine. S My sister is a memoir reader. Always memoirs of women. Who woman are and what they think and how to be one is always on our minds. Women's letters to other woman speak to me. I connected with Flannery O Connor as she worked through her Catholism, her writing and her lupus. I loved Catherine White's letters to Elizabeth Lawrence, one a southern gardener and one a northern writer. For the past many years I have been interested in how the making of food and community and woman's lives intertwine. Still I was somewhat surprised how much I loved these letters between Julia Child and Avis DeVoto. I do not like French cooking, I have seen Julie and Julia twice and read Julia Child's MY LIFE IN FRANCE. I love Julia's energy,pursuit of knowing and her immense good humor. But I loved this book because of Avis. I love the time capsule that Avis gives us. The letters begin in 1952. Through Avis, one can experience all the new kitchen appliances: mixers, disposals, dishwashers. One gets the account of the news through television. Avis lives with her family in Cambridge and through her husband's connections, one gets the sense of her very demanding social life of cocktail parties and hosting and attending elaborate dinner parties. Avis is the mother of two extraordinary sons, one of which is disturbed and gets a laundry list of 1950's therapies. Avis is constantly editing her husband's and other books, writing reviews and comes into the role of testing Julia's recipe's and editing Julia's manuscripts.She is also a vibrant political critic who thinks Eisenhower is a dufus and Nixon is a crook. Her hopes are on Adlai Stevenson, and is uncertain of the whole Kennedy clan. I gathered solace for our own seemingly disastrous political times in the absolute terror of the MeCarthism and the legislative and executive's branch inability to curb it. Avis speaks personally as she comments on increased physical limitations of getting older, her feeling low and her increased frustration with the way life was going. However, for me, the book turns on her on the last section after her husband dies, Julia's book has been rejected by Houghton Mifflin, and Avis has renewed her connections to Knopf by working there. Against all these difficulties, she is an absolutely clear sighted and forceful in her vision that Julia's work must and will be published. Julia and Paul are completely generous to Avis in her grief and she is the promoter and visionary in getting the book published. It is this that so moves me. It is these two woman, who share a love of French food, each with such different gifts, each so talented and strong who move against much of the food trends of the 50's and do this wonderful work together.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Tanna

    This is more amazing than anything I've read "about" Julia Child because this is Julia Child talking to a friend in letters over the years. It gives me the feeling that these two women (Julia & Avis) were blogging before there were blogs. At least, that's the voice that comes through to me reading their letters to each other. This is gorgeous reading and I know I'm going to be more in love with Julia when I finish reading it that when I started. As a side note: This book is available on the Kindle This is more amazing than anything I've read "about" Julia Child because this is Julia Child talking to a friend in letters over the years. It gives me the feeling that these two women (Julia & Avis) were blogging before there were blogs. At least, that's the voice that comes through to me reading their letters to each other. This is gorgeous reading and I know I'm going to be more in love with Julia when I finish reading it that when I started. As a side note: This book is available on the Kindle but not on iBooks. Having read books on both formats, I've determined I'll pay for a book I'm really going to enjoy on iBooks because it's such a great experience. Given the choice between paying for a book on Kindle and free from the library ... free wins out. Update: ha ha nope I broke down and bought the kindle version. wrote myself too many notes. Another Update: now it's on iBooks! Do you enjoy being a peeping-Tom? Did you live through the 50's? Do you love cooking ... French cooking ... girl talk ... the French ... politics? Ever wanted to be a fly on Julia Child's kitchen wall? Would you have loved to be Julia Child's best friend ... As Always Julia! Whether or not you agree with her politics, you'll love this book and I think you'll come away loving her more than when you started the book. You'll marvel at what we'd have missed out on if Julia and Avis had used instant messaging. I loved reading this and wept when it was finished. I'm struck with what marvelous blogs these two women would have had.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Kathy

    Truly two kindred spirits! What fun it was being in the middle of this 40 year friendship. Julia and Avis couldn't sit down for a cup of coffee or a glass of wine, so they were transatlantic pen pals who shared everything about their lives in these lengthy letters. All the while, Avis nurtured the development of Julia's cookbook and didn't let her give up on her vision for it when the road to finding a publisher became rocky. After reading their letters, you'll be BFFs.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Heather

    What a fascinating and entertaining look at two intelligent, funny, and thoughtful women. I was interested in the behind-the-scenes progress of the book that became Mastering the Art of a French Cooking, but was surprised to be as interested in these ladies' daily lives and their thoughts about politics. It is really eerie how their reflections on McCarthyism mirror the current political climate. I've always liked Julia Child, and I'm so glad that I read this book, because Avis DeVoto is equally What a fascinating and entertaining look at two intelligent, funny, and thoughtful women. I was interested in the behind-the-scenes progress of the book that became Mastering the Art of a French Cooking, but was surprised to be as interested in these ladies' daily lives and their thoughts about politics. It is really eerie how their reflections on McCarthyism mirror the current political climate. I've always liked Julia Child, and I'm so glad that I read this book, because Avis DeVoto is equally delightful.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Mary

    I like to read anything about Julia Child. This book was much more personal, as it was her voice about writing and publishing Mastering The Art of French Cooking. It was most interesting that politics back then were about the same as they are now. If you really want to know about Julia Child, this is a must read. It was wonderful to learn more about Avis DeVoto and her husband Bernard, very interesting people who were in the midst of the intellectual circles in the 1950's.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Debra

    These weren't just letters they were "novelettes!" I can't imagine what postage cost to mail back and forth from Europe to U.S. These two ladies were pen pals par excellence but more than that Avis Devoto made Julia Child what she was by getting her a publisher, advocating for her book, helping her test recipes, and by being a supporter and cheerleader when things got tough.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Lauren

    Reading through the letters of pen pals Julia Child and Avis DeVoto felt like entering a world where many things were different - the politics, the finances, the culture, to some extent - but even then, that everything was familiar somehow. The letters of these two remarkable women were frank and honest, witty and sardonic. My view of myself and my life experience seemed to sharpen a bit as I read their words, as though the comments they made on their own lives were a running commentary on simil Reading through the letters of pen pals Julia Child and Avis DeVoto felt like entering a world where many things were different - the politics, the finances, the culture, to some extent - but even then, that everything was familiar somehow. The letters of these two remarkable women were frank and honest, witty and sardonic. My view of myself and my life experience seemed to sharpen a bit as I read their words, as though the comments they made on their own lives were a running commentary on similar situations in my own. Admittedly, this book at times felt sluggish, but doesn't life as well? Notably, the epilogue is not to be missed. It was the final wrapping paper that put the whole book in perspective and helped me to step back out of the weeded details of these women's lives as told through their correspondence. In doing so, I gained the larger of view of the fact that this book spans the beginning and end of written letters from these best of friends. The magnitide and beauty and rawness of their sisterhood is greater than the sum of its parts.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jaclyn

    When Julia Child wrote a fan letter to Bernard de Voto, she could not possibly have imagined that her letter would set into motion a decades-long chain of correspondence with de Voto's wife, Avis. Nor could she have imagined that Avis would become her closest friend and confidante, and she Avis's, or that Avis would be the force behind pushing Julia's magnum opus, Mastering the Art of French Cooking through two publishing houses and into millions of American kitchens. No, Julia and Avis were jus When Julia Child wrote a fan letter to Bernard de Voto, she could not possibly have imagined that her letter would set into motion a decades-long chain of correspondence with de Voto's wife, Avis. Nor could she have imagined that Avis would become her closest friend and confidante, and she Avis's, or that Avis would be the force behind pushing Julia's magnum opus, Mastering the Art of French Cooking through two publishing houses and into millions of American kitchens. No, Julia and Avis were just two ladies who got to know each other through breezy, chatty, funny letters. And luckily for readers and foodies, As Always, Julia has collected the letters that show this extraordinary friendship develop and blossom. No one questions the great influence Julia Child has had on American cookery. She, more than James Beard or Dione Lucas or Mario Batali or anyone else for that matter, was the driving force behind America's food revolution. When the housewives of the 1950s were too busy or timid to attempt real soulful cooking, Julia jolted them out of their Jell-O fueled haze and taught America that anyone could cook, and that everyone deserved to eat good food. Everyone knows Julia and I think everyone understands just what a major deal she is. But until "Julie and Julia" came out in the theatres, maybe, or perhaps even until this book, no one knew Avis. Avis was the quiet force in the background. But what I learned from reading As Always, Julia was that Avis, too, was a larger-than-life personality, a funny, smart, loving woman with a zest for life and food and travel and books. Avis is someone I wish I had known. I loved reading Julia's letters describing life in Paris, Marseille, and so many exotic places... but Avis's letters were just as fascinating and enlightening. Her thoughts on politics, on the American housewife's attitude toward cookery, and on the literary scene, were fascinating. I would love, love, love to have a glass of wine with Avis. (Oh, and Julia too, of course.) One thing that was a bit bittersweet about As Always, Julia, was that it really drove home for me how much we have lost in terms of the art of letter-writing. The first 10 years of Avis and Julia's friendship was conducted almost all by letter. When was the last time we sat down and poured out our hearts into a good, gossipy, chatty letter and then posted it off to a friend? When was the last time we opened our mailbox to something other than bills, junk mail, magazines and the occasional birthday card? I used to write letters. I wrote my great-grandmother every week for years, until she passed away when I was 13. I had a series of pen-pals in Austria and Turkey. Then in high school, my camp friends and I wrote pages and pages to each other, enclosed writings, drawings, leaves, stickers... even when we could have easily picked up the phone and called each other, or even driven to one another's houses. Writing letters was just such fun. Receiving them was even more fun. And then it all stopped, and that's a loss. I write emails, certainly, but it's not the same. Now I want to revive letter writing... and hope that I find a pen-pal as simpatico as Julia was for Avis. Anyone feel like being my pen-pal?

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jenny (Reading Envy)

    It seems like each book that is published gives us more information about Julia Child, and I continue to be inspired by this character of a woman. I was inspired during the Julie & Julia craze (based on Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen and My Life in France, both great reads), and before that had considered Baking with Julia: Sift, Knead, Flute, Flour, And Savor... one of my top baking cookbooks. So I was surprised to feel like I learned so much more about Julia Ch It seems like each book that is published gives us more information about Julia Child, and I continue to be inspired by this character of a woman. I was inspired during the Julie & Julia craze (based on Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen and My Life in France, both great reads), and before that had considered Baking with Julia: Sift, Knead, Flute, Flour, And Savor... one of my top baking cookbooks. So I was surprised to feel like I learned so much more about Julia Child through her letters. As Always, Julia includes the majority of letters written between Julia Child and Avis DeVoto from the moment Avis replies to a fan letter Julia wrote to Avis's husband Bernard regarding an article he wrote about knives. The DeVotos are in the midst of the political and cultural action in New England while the Childs are moving between various appointed locations while Paul worked for the OSS (Paris, Marseilles, Berlin, Oslo, and a few stints back in the states). Julia was a staunch Democrat and very interested in politics, so many of the letters are full of discussions on what was going on with Eisenhower and McCarthy, up through the election of JFK. Of course, being Julia Child, the heart of the conversation is almost always food. This is the same time span of the well-known journey to getting the first volume of Mastering the Art of French Cooking published. I knew Avis as a rather periphery figure, but the letters reveal just how essential their relationship was in the book making it to the right person at the right publishing house, and how much leg work Avis herself did in the states to check on American ingredients and kitchen utensils, despite the fact that she started out as a woman with staff who usually did the cooking for her! Their relationship grows, and the letters discuss their meetings, the first one occurring seven years after they start writing. It is an uplifting portrait of a meaningful friendship, and the overly honest Julia had me laughing more than once. "People who love to eat are always the best people." (from a letter to Avis, January 5, 1953) I received an advanced reader's copy of this book through NetGalley.com, and was happy to, because it had been on my to-read list since I'd heard about it. A happy accident!

  18. 5 out of 5

    Kira FlowerChild

    First I saw the movie Julie & Julia, then I read the book it was based on. Before then, I had never been a big fan of Julia Child. She seemed like a larger-than-life presence, a little silly (that impression may have been influenced by Dan Ackroyd's impressions of her on SNL), and mostly irrelevant to my life. Although...when I was a young newlywed, I decided I wanted to learn French cooking so I actually bought Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume I and tried a couple of recipes. Sadly, First I saw the movie Julie & Julia, then I read the book it was based on. Before then, I had never been a big fan of Julia Child. She seemed like a larger-than-life presence, a little silly (that impression may have been influenced by Dan Ackroyd's impressions of her on SNL), and mostly irrelevant to my life. Although...when I was a young newlywed, I decided I wanted to learn French cooking so I actually bought Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume I and tried a couple of recipes. Sadly, my husband and I found we didn't like French cooking. Too many rich sauces. In this chronicle of the correspondence between Julia Child and Avis DeVoto, I can see why my husband and I had that reaction. Oh my word, the constant talk of cream sauces! However, cream aside (definitely for me, as I developed lactose intolerance years ago), this book was an absolutely fascinating journey through not only the process of creating a masterpiece of a cookbook, but also a contemporary view of the McCarthy era and the political scene during the entire decade of the 1950s. Avis DeVoto is now known mostly for her association with Julia Child and her tireless work not only trying to interest publishers in the book but also trying recipe after recipe and giving feedback about whether they would work in American kitchens. At the time, however, Avis' husband, Bernard DeVoto, was a well-known author and columnist, and the list of people they knew and socialized with reads like a Who's Who of the intelligentsia of the time. This is a long book. It is fairly evenly divided between talk of recipes and talk of politics with a dash of family gossip (from both Julia and Avis). If you are interested in French cooking, there is plenty to satisfy your curiosity. If you don't care about cooking but you are interested in the politics during the McCarthy era all the way to Kennedy's assassination, you will find plenty of first-hand accounts here in the sense that both Julia and Avis, but especially Avis, knew many of the peripheral figures involved, and both kept up with current events, exchanging articles and discussing various players. Mostly, though, this is the story of a friendship that spanned decades, heartwarming in the closeness felt by the two women, upbeat and joyous through most of the letters, and ambitious in the determination of both women to get that cookbook published! They both knew it would be revolutionary, and it was. And they were the revolutionaries who brought it about.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Joanna

    This was a wonderful collection of letters between friends that span many years of growth and change. As you read, you get the sense that Julia Child is blossoming into the chef that she will one day become, while Avis is navigating a new relationship to the world after her husband's death. But more than that, and more than the mouth watering recipes they exchange, Avis and Julia provide a fascinating chronicle of America (and the world) during McCarthyism. The exchange of their letters starts i This was a wonderful collection of letters between friends that span many years of growth and change. As you read, you get the sense that Julia Child is blossoming into the chef that she will one day become, while Avis is navigating a new relationship to the world after her husband's death. But more than that, and more than the mouth watering recipes they exchange, Avis and Julia provide a fascinating chronicle of America (and the world) during McCarthyism. The exchange of their letters starts in the early 1950s, and canvasses Eisenhower, Nixon (who they both loathed), and JFK (who Avis felt was too cowardly to stand up to McCarthy himself). Avis' eldest son is fighting in the Korean War, and the course of history and our country seem much more unsettled as they unfold in real epistolary time. You also get a feel for how progressive Julia Child's politics were. Not only as a stalwart Democrat, but also on burgeoning social issues of her time. She and Avis discuss the poet May Sarton and Julia's former OSS colleague Cora DuBois, both of whom were living their lives fairly openly with female partners. Julia is as firm in her friendships and loyalties as she is in her cooking instructions, and (although she does compare homosexuality to having a hare-lip) expresses her opinion that gay men and lesbians need the support (as opposed to shunning) of society. You truly get a sense of each woman through their correspondence. They write long letters that contain truths about their worries and their hopes and their plans. This book is almost a love letter to this particular type of letter writing, which may not exist any longer in the internet era.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Kristin (Kritters Ramblings)

    Well, this book was a hard and long read. I am a fan of Julia Childs and loved reading about her life in the parts of Julie and Julia, but this book was rough. A book that is 90% letters between the pen pals - Julia Childs and Avis DeVoto. This was a great way to get to know two women who changed the face of not only cookbooks, but food on tv. The structure of the book was appealing - but I had a few issues. I did not enjoy the parts of the letters between Avis and Julia that pertained to politics Well, this book was a hard and long read. I am a fan of Julia Childs and loved reading about her life in the parts of Julie and Julia, but this book was rough. A book that is 90% letters between the pen pals - Julia Childs and Avis DeVoto. This was a great way to get to know two women who changed the face of not only cookbooks, but food on tv. The structure of the book was appealing - but I had a few issues. I did not enjoy the parts of the letters between Avis and Julia that pertained to politics. I skimmed sweetly over it to get back to the writing of the cookbooks. The length of the book was overwhelming. I am not sure if this is due to my reading it on the computer, but I felt like a few to some of the letters could have been ommitted to make for quicker reading. The one positive take away - is that I enjoyed reading the extensive work that went into publishing the cookbook. The rounds of edits and revisions was beyond comprehension. I would send this book off to friends that like a book formatted in letters and who don't mind reading about the politics of the time.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    This is an unusual book as it is almost exclusively correspondence between two women that started by chance when Julia Child wrote a letter to Bernard DeVoto commenting on an article he had written about knives. That letter was answered by his wife, Avis, who did a lot of Bernard's secretarial work. From that small and chance beginning, a strong friendship bloomed that lasted almost forty years until Avis' death. The editor, Joan Reardon, has added a little summary at the beginning of each of th This is an unusual book as it is almost exclusively correspondence between two women that started by chance when Julia Child wrote a letter to Bernard DeVoto commenting on an article he had written about knives. That letter was answered by his wife, Avis, who did a lot of Bernard's secretarial work. From that small and chance beginning, a strong friendship bloomed that lasted almost forty years until Avis' death. The editor, Joan Reardon, has added a little summary at the beginning of each of the sections and sprinkled photographs throughout, but mostly it is the correspondence. I have read other books by and about Julia Child but this is the one that made me truly appreciate how much work went into "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" and how difficult it was to get it published. The letters contain a lot of political commentary, some of which was familiar to me, some which surprised me, and some which meant nothing to me, and a lot of cooking details, most of which went over my head. There were times when the book put me to sleep, especially if I was sleepy to begin with. But what shone through most of all, was the love and support these two women gave each other.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Megan

    This book was a beast! It took me forever to get through it, but I'm do glad I did! Joan Reardon presents us with a real labor of love, an edited compilation of correspondence between Julia Child and her pen pal Avis DeVoto. They were both amazing women and I felt like I wanted them to be some sort of maternal figure in my life. The letters really show how much time and effort when into the Julia's cookbook on both their parts. It found myself consulting google me Julia's cookbook to learn more This book was a beast! It took me forever to get through it, but I'm do glad I did! Joan Reardon presents us with a real labor of love, an edited compilation of correspondence between Julia Child and her pen pal Avis DeVoto. They were both amazing women and I felt like I wanted them to be some sort of maternal figure in my life. The letters really show how much time and effort when into the Julia's cookbook on both their parts. It found myself consulting google me Julia's cookbook to learn more about things mentioned in their letters. It was interesting to read of their political views and laughed loudly when I realized some of the scathing words they used to describe the Republicans totally hold merit today as well. Too funny! I would recommend this book but warn you that it will take some time to get through!

  23. 4 out of 5

    Joy

    This book is a treasure of a collection of letters between Julia Child and her penpal-turned-friend and close confidante, Avis DeVoto. Theirs is a friendship that's so sweet, caring, candid and supportive. Their messages span topics from cookery, social interactions, shopping, to politics. They are highly opinionated women who are not afraid to say what they think. Their writing is never boring, but amusing one way or another. I've read several books on Julia Child, but nothing really gives a rea This book is a treasure of a collection of letters between Julia Child and her penpal-turned-friend and close confidante, Avis DeVoto. Theirs is a friendship that's so sweet, caring, candid and supportive. Their messages span topics from cookery, social interactions, shopping, to politics. They are highly opinionated women who are not afraid to say what they think. Their writing is never boring, but amusing one way or another. I've read several books on Julia Child, but nothing really gives a really good picture of how she was as a person than this. I felt genuinely sad after finishing the book because I want to read more of their letters. It felt like I lost two friends at the end. I highly recommend this to anyone who is a fan of Julia Child and a bonus if you like letter-writing, too.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Jean-marcel

    Mostly stultifying. You have to be pretty devoted to really want to read peoples' personal correspondence, and this is just that. Two women natter on endlessly about: stainless steel kitchen utensils and how much they suck, how much Joe Mcarthy sucks, how different life in Paris is from life in Washington, how Frenchmen are stuck up, how Frenchmen are amazing, how you can't get good spices in 1953 USA, how you can't get white bread in 1953 France, how publishers drag their feet, how men like to Mostly stultifying. You have to be pretty devoted to really want to read peoples' personal correspondence, and this is just that. Two women natter on endlessly about: stainless steel kitchen utensils and how much they suck, how much Joe Mcarthy sucks, how different life in Paris is from life in Washington, how Frenchmen are stuck up, how Frenchmen are amazing, how you can't get good spices in 1953 USA, how you can't get white bread in 1953 France, how publishers drag their feet, how men like to be lazy and eat steak, how sick so-and-so is, how awful so-and-so is, how "it would be great to see youuuuuu!", and on, and on, and on. If you're expecting recipes, you'll be disappointed. If you're expecting much other than idle gossip that is sixty years out of date, find another book.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    Oh, Julia. Though it took me a long time to get through this book (there are A LOT of letters), I loved every minute of it. Reading Julia and Avis' correspondence really made me feel as though I got to know them as people, Julia's letters spoke in the same voice as the one I fell in love with when I read My Life In France, and reminded me of all the reasons I love and respect her so much. It's also fun that a lot of Avis' news revolves around happenings in Cambridge, at places I have been to or Oh, Julia. Though it took me a long time to get through this book (there are A LOT of letters), I loved every minute of it. Reading Julia and Avis' correspondence really made me feel as though I got to know them as people, Julia's letters spoke in the same voice as the one I fell in love with when I read My Life In France, and reminded me of all the reasons I love and respect her so much. It's also fun that a lot of Avis' news revolves around happenings in Cambridge, at places I have been to or pass by every day; makes me love living here all over again. Even more excited now to check out the exhibit on Julia at the Schlesinger library!

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer Whiteford

    I put this on my "read" shelf with some hesitation because I wasn't able to finish it in my allotted borrowing time from the library and couldn't renew because of pending holds. This book is giant! Still, I'm giving it four stars because what I read of it, I loved. The letters show two people unafraid of their own passions, approaching food and cooking and writing with enthusiasm and love. The letters are smart and funny. This is the kind of book that I'd rather own than get from the library. Th I put this on my "read" shelf with some hesitation because I wasn't able to finish it in my allotted borrowing time from the library and couldn't renew because of pending holds. This book is giant! Still, I'm giving it four stars because what I read of it, I loved. The letters show two people unafraid of their own passions, approaching food and cooking and writing with enthusiasm and love. The letters are smart and funny. This is the kind of book that I'd rather own than get from the library. The perfect thing to dip in and out of when in need of a bit of inspiration.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Anne Van

    I've read a couple of books about Julia Child lately, but this series of "pen pal" letters between Julia and Avis Devoto really tells an amazing story of the years before publication of "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" and reinforces my image of Julia Child as smart and funny, intensely interested in life. Avis' letters, on the other hand, seemed at first to be name-dropping and brittle, but over the years of their correspondence and her personal losses, she, too, emerges with strength and I've read a couple of books about Julia Child lately, but this series of "pen pal" letters between Julia and Avis Devoto really tells an amazing story of the years before publication of "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" and reinforces my image of Julia Child as smart and funny, intensely interested in life. Avis' letters, on the other hand, seemed at first to be name-dropping and brittle, but over the years of their correspondence and her personal losses, she, too, emerges with strength and integrity.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Iñaki Tofiño

    A friendship that starts over French cutlery and goes on during many years and many letters on French food, American politics, literature... The type of American women / people I like: open minded, intelligent, cultivated. It has been quite a pleasure to read about Child's struggle with her book and her French coauthors, De Voto's managing with and without her husband, the Childs assignments in France, Germany, and Norway, presidential elections, kitchen appliances, friends, children. A great re A friendship that starts over French cutlery and goes on during many years and many letters on French food, American politics, literature... The type of American women / people I like: open minded, intelligent, cultivated. It has been quite a pleasure to read about Child's struggle with her book and her French coauthors, De Voto's managing with and without her husband, the Childs assignments in France, Germany, and Norway, presidential elections, kitchen appliances, friends, children. A great reading.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Kate

    I loved this book, not as much for the food (most of which, as a vegetarian, I will never cook nor eat) as for the insight into this era of the United States. Letters between Julia and Avis reveal what it was like to live in the McCarthy era; their dialogue is that of two people who move in circles of people interested in writing, publishing, conservation, and politics. This book is for food lovers, but it's also for anyone curious about American history and a view of how timeless friendships ca I loved this book, not as much for the food (most of which, as a vegetarian, I will never cook nor eat) as for the insight into this era of the United States. Letters between Julia and Avis reveal what it was like to live in the McCarthy era; their dialogue is that of two people who move in circles of people interested in writing, publishing, conservation, and politics. This book is for food lovers, but it's also for anyone curious about American history and a view of how timeless friendships can be.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jasmine

    So, an epistolary book about food, Julia Child, and Mastering the Art of French cooking was basically written just to make me happy, I think. I just finished it, after reading on and off for about a month. I loved this book, though the middle got a little slow. The first and last thirds of the book were a delight, though, and I was so sad when I got to the end. I loved seeing how political (and liberal!) Julia was, and the friendship between Julia and Avis was just beautiful.

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