Saturday, August 29, 2009

Barney's Online Book Club Discussion -- August 2009

Welcome to the second discussion post of Barney's Online Book Club! This month we are discussing Julie and Julia by Julie Powell. Below are questions to start the discussion, feel free to raise your own questions in the comments section. Please note that the questions and the comments sections may include spoilers! Read at your own risk. Please also note that I will be commenting live tomorrow night at 7pm EST. Anyone online at that time is welcome to join me!

Let the discussion begin!

Discussion Questions:

1. How did you initially feel about Julie and the Julie/Julia project? Did your perceptions of Julie change during the course of the book?

2. What do you think was Julie's true motivation for the Julie/Julia project?

3. Do you feel that all of her family and friends were supportive of the project?

4. Did anything in the book surprise you?

5. What were your impressions of Julia Child's dislike of the Julie/Julia Project? Do you think Julie handled Julia's dislike appropriately in the book?

6. What were your overall feelings about the book?


Diane said...

1) I can't say that I had any feelings one way or the other about the Julie/Julia project.

2) I think her motivation was that she wanted to accomplish something significant before her 30th birthday.

3)I thought Julie's husband was very supportive and patient.

4) It sursprised me that Julia Child did not attend cooking
school until she was in her 40's, and I guess I never knew she did not have children.

5)Honestly, Julia Child was in her 80's when Julie took on this project, so how she felt might not have been the same as how she would have felt had she been younger at the time. Not even sure what her mental state was?

6) I liked the book a lot, but felt Julie was too whiny at times.

How about everyone else?

Sue Jackson said...

1) I liked Julie at first and could understand her feelings about her life - feeling like she didn't have a purpose and didn't know what to do with her life (I haven't felt that way but could understand how she felt). I understood her motivation for starting the project - wanting something concrete to work on with a set goal. I guess she choose that particular cookbook because of its emotional connection with her childhood, but I really can't imagine doing the same myself. I love to cook, but cooking all the recipes from a cookbook written in 1961 seemed a little crazy to me! To me, the ingredients and methods (and the fat content!) were all a bit outdated. As the book went on, there were times when I felt Julie was a bit whiny, though I enjoyed her sense of humor.

2) I thought her true motivation was to find some sort of purpose in her life, to have a solid goal to work toward.

3) I thought most of her family and friends were amazingly supportive! True, some friends didn't want to make the trip out to Long Island City for dinner very often, but I think that's understandable. It sounds like her family and friends were loyal blog readers from the start. And her husband was a saint!

4) Some of the recipes sure surprised me! And why anyone would want to make them! Personally, I'll pass on organ meats and aspic (I checked my own Julia Child cookbook and saw the picture of the cold poached egg in aspic - yum, yum...not). And I guess Julie's determination surprised me (and maybe herself, too). I think that shows just how desperately she needed some goals and sense of direction in her life.

5) My impression was simply that Julia Child has heard vaguely of the project and was uninterested. I thought Julie handled this "rejection" from her idol with amazing maturity (a maturity not necessarily apparent in her in other aspects!)

6) I always enjoy memoirs and two of my passions are cooking and blogging, so I found the book fascinating! I also enjoyed Julie's sense of humor, even though I couldn't always relate to her diatribes.

I posted a full review of Julie & Julia at

Thanks for hosting the discussion!


Jess said...

Diane -- I definitely agree with your comment that Julie could be whiney at times. Sometimes I felt confused by the points she tried to make, such as the connection between Mastering the Art of French Cooking and The Joy of Sex, but I also found her very funny. Especially her diatribe about Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Sue -- I was surprised also by some of the recipes Julie made. Aspic sounds aweful! I thought that reading Julie and Julia would make me hungry all the time, but often I felt the opposite!

What did you think about the Julia and Paul Child portions of the book? Did you feel like there was enough for you to get a full picture of their life and how it corresponded with Julie's life?

Deb said...

1. Initially I was somewhat indifferent when I read that Julie wanted to take on this project, I didn’t feel one way or the other about it. But, considering what she had going on in her life at the time, I guess I did think it might be something great for her to take on.

2. I thought Julie’s true motivation for the project was the need for direction in her life. When the book first starts, Julie is nearing 30, is in a dead-end job and has just found out she may not be able to have children. I think that she needed a distraction from these discouraging things and the project gave her something else to concentrate on. What was great to see is that, as the project went on, Julie gained confidence in both her life and in herself.

3. Julie’s mother was definitely unsupportive of this idea at first and begged her several times to stop. This went on for quite a while b/c Julie first started this project in August and when she went to visit her family at Christmastime, her mother didn't allow her to cook! Good thing Julie didn’t listen! There were plenty of people who were supportive of her though; her brother, her friends, her loyal blog readers and most of all her husband. Eric not only supported Julie throughout this project, but he also helped with grocery shopping, washing dishes and actual cooking. I think that if it wasn’t for her husband pushing her forward, Julie may not have finished it.

4. I was surprised a few times during the book. First, I really liked when Julie wrote about real historical events such as the first anniversary of 09/11 and the day New York City lost power in 2003. It was great reading about these events by someone who experienced them first hand. I wasn’t expecting either of these instances in the book. Second, when Julie discovered that she liked cutting up ‘dead animals’ (which led to her to become a real butcher!). I guess she just didn’t come across to me as someone who would like this line of work!

5. I was also a little surprised and disappointed to find out that Julia Child disliked Julie P’s project. Because Julia had been such a great inspiration and positive influence in Julie P’s life, I think it would have been great for the two of them to meet in person. In Julia Child’s defense though, she may have felt that Julie P. was trying to cash in on her success, but I don’t believe that that was Julie P’s motivation. I definitely think that Julie P. handled Julia’s dislike of the project appropriately. I can imagine how devastating it must have been for Julie P. when she found out this news, especially when she felt like Julia had been such a huge part of her life for a full year and beyond). What I thought was great though is, even if Julia disliked Julie P. it didn’t stop Julie P. from truly respecting and appreciating Julia for what she did for her life.

6. Overall, I definitely enjoyed reading this book. There were times that I got annoyed with Julie’s whining, but I thought the book itself was good. I think what’s great about this book is, it may be inspirational for people who feel they’ve come to a dead-end in their life.

Staci said...

1. Initially I thought I might enjoy this book, but as I got further into it I just didn't like Julie. My perceptions did NOT change. I was waiting for it to but it never happened!

2. I think her motivation was exactly what she said. She wanted a change in life. I liked the whole idea of her making these recipes and posting about them. The part I didn't like is where she put a donation button on her blog...tacky!

3. Her husband and most of her friends were, but of course her mother thought she was just plain crazy!!

4. Nothing really surprised me. Maybe just how much fame she accrued aver the length of the blog.

5. I felt that Julia had a right not to like the project. She probably didn't really care for her name to be associated with the F word and that sort of thing.

6. I honestly did not think it was that great. I'm glad that I read it so I understand all of the hype but I felt it could've been so much better. Not one of my favorite food memoirs at all.

Jess said...

Deb -- I can definitely understand your indifference to Julie in the beginning, I felt the same way. But my perception of her did change throughout the book. I definitely can understand Julie need to set a goal or use a project as a way of dealing with the unhappiness in her life. I am still astounded that she was able to complete the project! It just seems so immense and overwhelming just to think about.

Staci -- I was surprised by the fame and (I am assuming) fortune that the blog brought her. Even though, everyone loves an underdog and the thought of an average woman able to complete such a complex project may inspire others to take on interesting goals in their own lives.

Was anyone surprised by the lack of cooking in the book? Did you enjoy the passages about her friends and family that didn't talk about her project?

Deb said...

I did like the Julia and Paul Child portions of the book, however, I don’t feel they came close to showing the full picture of their life together. From what I know about this couple outside the book, they had a great love and respect for each other that lasted over 50 years! I never would have known the depth of their relationship from Julie Powell’s book alone.

I definitely saw a connection between Julia and Julie though in that they ‘found their calling’ sort of speak when they were in their thirties when it seemed like they had nothing else going on.

I actually thought that there was a good amount of cooking in the book… Sometimes I felt like the details of her cooking went on and on and I would actually skim these parts.

I also enjoyed the passages about her friends (Sally, Gwen and Isabel) that didn’t talk about her project! I think it showed that even if the project was a huge part of her life, these were other things that were going on as well.

Jess said...

Deb -- I actually wished that Julie Powell had included more details about the dishes she cooked. Out of 524 she only seemed to talk about what felt like a small amount. I would have also liked more information on Julia's life with Paul and her experiences as a chef. I really enjoyed the parts with Julia and Paul and would have like to seen more.

What does everyone else think? More Julia or too much Julia or just the right amount?

Sue Jackson said...

I was fascinated by the Julia Child portions of the book and wish there had been more. From the previews I've seen, it looks like the movie does a little more with the Julia bit, though friends of mine said they still wanted more Julia and less Julie in the movie.

Jess - I'm with you on the cooking parts actually ruining my appetite! Yuck. And I really could have done without the preview chapter at the back of her next memoir about being a butcher - ew! Don't think I'll be reading that one...

Jess said...

Sue -- I didn't have a chance to read the preview at the end. Was it that bad?

Jess said...

Hi everybody!

I am on for live commenting. It seems from the comments above that we were split on our overall love of the book. Many of the reviews I have read mentioned Julie's swearing and sexual topics as turn-offs when they were reading the book. Any thoughts?

Deb said...


I'll comment! I didn't think the swearing was a big deal b/c I think that that's just Julie's personality coming through and from what I heard, it was worse in her blog! But then again, I could see that not being something Julia Child would want to be associated with!

I didn't really see significance though of Julie sneaking into her parent's room to look at the 'Joy of Sex' book. Why did she include this and what did it have to do with the project?

Jess said...

Deb --
I definitely agree with the Joy of Sex story. Not really sure where it fit in the book. I do however love her David Strathern story and how she tried to seduce him with her cooking -- really funny!

Deb said...

I loved the David Strathern part too actually and thought it was great! Especially when it was her b-day and she decided she'd rather go home and cook brains than wait around to meet him! Ha ha!

I give Julie a lot of credit though b/c if I were doing this project, I don't think I could make the recipes with the brain and kidneys!

Jess said...

I definitely agree with not being able to cook brains and kidneys -- I can bearly cook steak!

I also found the story of how she had to miss the series finale of Buffy because the news crew was at her house to film her cooking. Just the love she has for the show, reminds me of my love of Lost. What other parts did you find funny?

Shon said...

Unfortunately I wasn't able to get this book from the library in time for the discussion. I wanted to stop by to say hi. Have fun discussing the book tonight.

Jess said...

Thanks Shon, I hope you can join us next month. Have fun reading Julie and Julia!

Deb said...

There were 2 parts that I thought were really funny!

The first one was a small, small part right at the beginning of the book before she had even started the project. She had just eaten the potato leak soup and described how her cat had walked away stiff legged after smelling her breath! I could totally picture that happening from how she described it!

The second was her reaction when she went into her half bathroom and found the sink clogged and the goop coming out of the faucet! That was funny!

The part I could really have done without though was near the end when she found the maggots under the dish rack. That was so disgusting!

Jess said...

I had totally repressed the part about the maggots! Yuck!

In my review I talked a little about how the book was so much more than a cooking memoir. The lives of Julie's friends are written about as well as her reactions. How did you feel about Isobel's decisions and Julie's reaction?

Deb said...

I saw Isabel as kind of a free-spirit, so I can see why Julia would react the way she did b/c it seemed like Isabel was being irresponsible in her decisions.

I was surprised to read that Isabel and that punk rocker got engaged though! I assumed that he'd dump her and she'd come back knowing she made a big mistake. So I guess it turned alright.

I wanted to scream at Gwen though having the affair with the married man! He should have been hands off! :-)

Jess said...

Yeah, Gwen and the married man was not my favorite storyline. I was glad that ended. But I also wasn't happy with Isobel's decision to leave her husband. I just found it very sad that she had a man that loved her but still couldn't be happy. I guess it just wasn't meant to be.

Speaking of husbands, how great was Eric? The man must be in line for sainthood.

Deb said...

Yeah, I wasn't happy with Isobel's decision to leave her husband either and thought she was making a big mistake. Her husband seemed very caring and loving and she gave that up for something that seemed unrealistic! But like you said, I guess it wasn't meant to be.

Yes, Eric seemed deemed for sainthood! He seemed so patient and supportive with Julie's project and he was always there when she needed him most. Like I said earlier, I don't know if she could have completed it w/o him cheering her on.

I know this wasn't in the book and I'll leave a lot of this detail out b/c it's in her second book but, are they still married?!

Jess said...

I am not sure if they are still married.

Anyway, it looks like no one else is going to join us, so let's call it a night. Thanks so much for commenting with me and for participating in the book club. I will be sending around an email next week looking for suggestions for the next month's selection, so start thinking about interesting books you would like to read!

Have a great night!

Deb said...

Thanks Jess! I enjoyed the discussion, it was great!

Looking forward to next month's book!

bethany (dreadlock girl) said...

I have this book and I should read it!!! I'd love to discuss it here :)

rickandlenamedina said...

1. Initially, I loved the idea of the Julie/Julia project. The idea of a challenge, and a "food challenge" was perfect for me as I am a food junkie. After reading the book, I actually respect this young woman for finishing it...and doing pretty damn well in the process, aside from the occasional mishaps...

2. Julie's motivation was definitely to accomplish something, and find something within herself at the same time. I think she did that.

3. Julie's family and friends were, for the most part, supportive. Initially, her mother had reservations, however, Julie's husband, brother, and friends were there.

4. Yes. The use of the "F" word. I did not expect that.

5. I was a little surprised that Julia did not like Julie's project. I think if she was alive now, she would understand the meaning and the reason Julie took the project on.

6. I enjoyed the book. It actually inspired me to take on more challenges in life (other than book challenges).

*Side note: Saw the movie. Very happy with the outcome.