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Appetite for Life: A Biography of Julia Child [Livre audio] [Anglais] [CD]

No'l Riley Fitch , Wanda McCaddon

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Extrait

Perched on the railing of a veranda in Kunming, China, Julia McWilliams was aware only of the uniformed man beside her, reading the poem he wrote for her thirty-third birthday.  She stretched her very long legs out in front of her, crossing them at her ankles, so Paul Child could see what he would later call "my beloved Julia's magnificent gams."  She barely noticed the formal gardens beyond the porch or the miles of rice paddies stretching toward Kunming Lake.  Nor did her gaze settle on the mist-shrouded Shangri-La of temples carved into the rock of West Mountain.  It was his voice that captured her, each word he read a note weaving a melody through her heart: "The summer's heat of your embrace . . . melts my frozen earth."

The cotton dress clung to her slim, six-feet-two-inch body.  Here she was in China, a privileged girl, seeking adventure, even danger, in the civilian opportunities of World War II, and she had found it, not in the Registry of the Office of Strategic Services, nor in the backwoods refugee city of Kunming at the end of the Burma Road, but in the urbane, sophisticated, multilingual presence of forty-three-year-old Paul Child.  They talked all evening, his intellect challenging her, his experienced touch awakening her.  In the last China outpost of Lord Mountbatten's command, surrounded at sea by Japanese forces, warplanes droning in the distance, Julia McWilliams felt alive.


How like autumn's warmth is Julia's face,
So filled with nature's bounty, nature's world. . . .


The cadence of his voice, reciting his sonnet "To Julia," intensified the air of anticipation between them, dimming for the first time the news they had received that week of the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  Russia was invading Manchuria to the north.  Just hours earlier they had heard of Japan's surrender and knew the world was changing for everyone, not just themselves.


I cast this heaped abundance at your feet:
An offering to summer and her heat.


Paul drove Julia by jeep to a mountain retreat for a weekend, where they talked of meeting each other's families: he had a twin brother, whose family lived in Pennsylvania, she two siblings and a father in California.  The differences in their height (he was a mere five feet ten and three-quarters inches), age, education, cultural and political backgrounds, and values seemed less severe in this foreign territory where the future was so uncertain.  He called theirs a "sweet friendship" in his sonnet, but she wanted much more from this wartime embrace in a strange land.  When he read aloud "the awakening fields abound / With newly green effulgence," he could have been talking about her.

They had met just the year before in a tea planter's veranda in Ceylon, when he was courting several women and seemed far beyond her reach in knowledge and experience.  He had the worldly-wise caution of a man who had supported himself since he was a child, sailing the high seas, working at physically demanding jobs, and educating himself in the classics, art, and music.  Despite her degree from Smith College, the gangly girl from the West seemed to have little in common with this cosmopolitan ladies' man.  "I was a hungry hayseed from California," she would declare half a century later:


There were a lot of women around and he was ten years older than I.  Very sophisticated.  He had lived in France and I'd only been to Tijuana!  So I found him very impressive, you see.  And he was also an intellectual.  I was a kind of Southern California butterfly, a golf player and tennis person who acted in Junior League plays.


She was indeed a party girl, a child of well-to-do parents, who had never had to work.  Though she occasionally held jobs in New York City and Los Angeles, marriage was the usual goal of her generation.  Had the war not come, she said, she "might have become an alcoholic" amid the society life of Pasadena.  Julia stood out in any crowd, not just because of her height, but because she was strikingly beautiful in a wholesome way.  She was also like a magnum of champagne, the effusive life of the party, even, as far as Paul was concerned, occasionally "hysterical."  But as he learned more of this woman, he saw the depth of her character, and her joy lifted him from his isolation and reserve.  Thirty-five years after their wedding, he told a Boston newspaper, "Without Julia, I think I'd be a sour old bastard living off in a cave."

Chinese food brought them together, at least talk of food did.  He thought she could cook, but in fact she had a keen interest in food largely because she was always hungry.  They loved the Peking-cuisine restaurants in this refugee city where the first cookbook was written around 3000 B.C.  and the "earliest restaurant" opened during the T'ang Dynasty.  They drove out with OSS friends whose parents were missionaries here and who knew the language and food, and they feasted on the many regional Chinese cuisines.  Paul also spoke to Julia about the food of France, which he had enjoyed in the 1920s.  Fluent in French, he talked with such a distinct inflection he seemed British to Julia.  He would have been seen as effete in her native Pasadena.

Paul was unlike the Western boys she hung around with in her large circle of friends in Southern California, unlike any of the men her friends married.  In hearing about his life, she soon realized he had no religion, few family connections, and held the business world in disdain.  He was an artist and raconteur, a black belt in jujitsu, who could mesmerize colleagues with his stories.  He represented a world she ached to know, an intellectual and European world, typical of the OSS personnel (such as anthropologists Gregory Bateson and Cora DuBois) whom she had come to admire during the past year in India and China.  When she described her Presbyterian-raised father, a man of business and prominent in the civic affairs of Pasadena, Paul realized how dissimilar she was to any woman he had ever loved, for they all, including a woman he had lived with for many years, were petite, dark, and sophisticated in dress and manner.  In contrast, Paul found Julia youthful, but "tough-fibered" and "natural."

"It wasn't like lightning striking the barn on fire," Paul said of their meeting in India.  "I just began to think, my God, this is a hell of a nice woman, sturdy, and funny withal.  And responsible!  I was filled with admiration for this classy dame."  If love grew slowly with him, for her it was the coup de foudre, and she made immediate plans to learn to cook for him.  Like her paternal grandfather, John McWilliams, who left all he knew to follow the Gold Rush in 1849, she was ready to consider a break with her past. --Ce texte fait référence à l'édition Broché .

Revue de presse

"Because Child allowed Fitch complete access to her papers, we get a real feel for the relentless work that went into the much-massaged  Mastering."
--Washington Post

"Fitch's richly detailed biography of Child describes how a plainspoken woman who loved food inspired millions to pick up a whisk and make a fine French dinner from scratch."
--Newsweek

"Makes Julia [Child's] evolution from high-security clerk to cook to writer to star an incredible adventure."
--Boston Globe

"A delicious recounting of the life of the woman who has inspired confidence in generations of American cooks."
--Town & Country

"Entertaining and informative--represents the best of biographical writing."
--Library Journal --Ce texte fait référence à l'édition Broché .

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Commentaires client les plus utiles sur Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.9 étoiles sur 5  67 commentaires
63 internautes sur 64 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Not For Cooks Only! 31 décembre 2000
Par JK - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié
Julia Child as a personality has long been melded with Julia Child, the cook. I watched her shows in the sixties as a child having little interest in the kitchen, but simply finding her fascinating to watch! 'The French Chef', unlike the Galloping Gourmet and others, has aged well and can still be watched with enjoyment. Why? Because Julia Child was always herself on TV, never pandering to the transient and fickle tastes of the times.
Watching Julia's various series, I learned some about her life, but eagerly purchased this book when it first appeared. Unlike some other reviewers, I delighted in this auther's literary painting of the times in which Julia has lived. To me, nothing is more disappointing in a biography than the feeling that something has been left out!
This book demonstrates that though her name to the public has been made by her cooking career, Julia Child is much, much more. For those who enjoy reading biographies, this will provide enjoyment regardless of whether they like cooking or not!
27 internautes sur 27 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Rich, romantic bio of a great woman of our century. 11 octobre 1999
Par Florida mom - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Broché|Achat vérifié
My husband and I listened to this book on tape (Blackstone Audio). We both loved it, and couldn't wait to get home each evening to hear the next tape in the 16-tape series. Neither of us knew much about Julia Child previously, and we are both very grateful to have 'Appetite for Life' open our eyes to a truly inspirational American. Julia can look for us in one of those long, long lines of adoring fans at her next book signing.
36 internautes sur 38 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
1.0 étoiles sur 5 sadly, not well written 6 août 2008
Par Christine Burmeister - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Broché
I love Julia Child, have and use her cookbooks, have read the autobiography/memoir written with her nephew(?) and was thrilled to come upon this book in a local bookstore, marked down to $6 nonetheless...The first paragraph was convoluted and not catchy, but still, anything Julia...

However, you get what you pay for in this case. This has to be one of the sloppier books I've read, it seems to me as if the author got through the first draft, couldn't stand to look at it again, and it was somehow published without ever being edited. It is full of parenthetical asides, long uninteresting descriptions, and flat out mistakes. At one point the author writes how it was easier for the young Julia and her friend to steal cigarettes from a parent than cigars, and says 'therefore they smoked more cigars'. Hmm? I wish it was some statement that they loved the challenge, but it is obviously simply an error.

As a Julia fan, I am reading it just for the info, but I would rather just have the primary source material. One of the wonderful things about biography is that often the author is able to weave the history into the incredible pattern that is the finished life. In this one, the author just seems to be pointing out one thing after the other, giving no weight to anything, and showing no discernment. Disappointing.

If you think this is a well written biography, read Titan. Then compare.
50 internautes sur 55 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
3.0 étoiles sur 5 Not a masterful biography. 18 juillet 2004
Par KateMc - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Broché
As a great American icon, Julia Child deserves a great biography, but if this book is any indication, she may have to write her own. Although the book provides a lot of interesting detail, the author often fails to thread them into any cohesive fashion, and page after page is factoid upon factoid with no apparent organizing principle. Also far too much time is spent tediously detailing the guest lists for dozens of Child dinner parties, making much of the book sound like one of those dreadful society columns filled with the names of party goers and their various social and educational connections. This is what happens when an author, working off of the papers of her subject, is unable to rise above the reportage level to separate the wheat from the chaff.
I'll give the author credit for doing a lot of research and providing an intimate glimpse at the Child marriage and the interesting figure of Paul Child himself. It also does a good job of taking us through the painstaking 9-year process of writing and rewriting "Mastering the Art of French Cooking". But as for a well-organized transcendant portrait of Julia herself, this one is missing the touch of a master.
30 internautes sur 33 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 FOR MY $$$ THE BEST OF THE BUNCH 7 juillet 2009
Par GW™ - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Broché
I've read the reviews & am sorry there were so many negitive ones.
The biggest complaint seems to be that the book is poorly written.
(Well... I for one do NOT have a problem with parenthetical expression. In fact, I am a proponent & an advocate of this handy device. I am, not only, a continual, continuous , constant , incessant, perpetual & perennial PRACTIONER.....I bought the company!) But I digress.

Anyway, I've read two other books about J.C.(My Life in France and Backstage with Julia) and THIS one was my favorite. The backstage book focused on the author & didn't appeal to me.(However, it WAS useful for the last stages of Julia's life & her death, as the big book was written some years before Julia's death.)

My Life in France is a lovely book but glosses over some of the "warts" in Julia's life.

No, this biography is the one I'm adding to my bookshelf. (And being from Pasadena myself I loved the neighborhood details & could picture EXACTLY where she lived & played as a child).

Incidentally, I ran into Julia a couple of times. Once here is Pasadena at the local cookware shop and again, years later, at the farmer's market in Santa Barbara. She was a cooking icon and an amazing woman.

One question: Why is reviewer Mark Wilden from Frisco SO HOSTILE??
People can check out this book from their local library
& it won't cost them nothin' but a little time.
By the way, Mark, anyone who likes Bluegrass is OK by me.
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