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No one has done more to change American attitudes toward food and home cooking than Julia Child. For more than 30 years, this television icon inspired and encouraged viewers' culinary pursuits with her confident joie de vivre and a voice Bob Spitz describes as "a cross between Tallulah Banks and a slide whistle." Spitz's Dearie, published to coincide with the centennial of Child's birth, is a comprehensive biography that fizzes with the humor and spirit of its subject's remarkable life.
While Child is best remembered for her career in television, she did not make her first on-screen appearance until she was 50. Spitz's prologue concerns Child's television debut, an anecdote featuring a studio staff both fascinated by her charisma and panicked that her wild whisking would cause her blouse to burst open. After that story, Spitz rewinds the clock and takes the time lovingly to detail Child's youth and quest for meaning and maturity. A late bloomer, she fluttered through life as a social butterfly with ambition but no purpose. Spitz shows that those formative years and an adolescence that stretched into adulthood allowed her to develop the independent, rebellious spirit that would help her shine a bright light against the onslaught of over-processed convenience foods in American supermarkets. He also devotes ample space to the history and character of Paul, Julia's husband, an artistic and romantic man of the world who considered his wife "a veritable goddess" and with whom she enjoyed years of wedded bliss.
Spitz and Child intended to collaborate on her biography, a decision made as they toured Sicily together in 1992, when Spitz interviewed Child for several magazines and developed "a crush" on the outspoken and down-to-earth celebrity. Unfortunately, Child passed away while Spitz was completing another biography (The Beatles), but he continued the project with her blessing, through letters and diaries belonging to Julia and Paul Child as well as her closest friends Simone "Simca" Beck and Avis DeVoto, along with interviews with surviving friends, family and colleagues. Dearie may not be the only biography of Julia Child on bookstore shelves, but Spitz's joyous and definitive rendering of an American icon will inspire readers in the kitchen and beyond.
***This review originally appeared in Shelf Awareness Readers Edition. Sign up for this free and awesome newsletter at http://www.shelf-awareness.com for the latest news and reviews! This review refers to an ARC provided by Shelf Awareness.***