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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 12 March 2010
I bought this book after seeing the movie Julie and Julia a couple of weeks ago. I really didn't know much about Julia and Paul Child - who were indeed a team as this bio points out - until reading Fitch's book. Her writing is excellent, and I'd rather know too much than too little about a subject. I just cannot understand any of the bad reviews of this book that have been written.

I have also read "Julie and Julia", which I didn't quite care for. I still have the third book, Julia Child's own "My Life in France" next up on my reading table. But to get back to Fitch's book, which ends before Child's death in 2004, it is a complete biography of all of Child's life up to the point it was written. Fitch incorporates most of Julia'a (and Paul's) family and friends and makes special mention of their WW2 duties in the OSS in Ceylon and China. Most of all, the reader can "see" how Julia McWilliams and Paul Child fell in love and created "Julia Child".

Fitch's work is a good addendum to the movie Julie and Julia.
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on 26 January 1998
This fascinating look at a truly amazing woman is well worth the effort of slogging through what amounts to some pretty tough reading. The author seems to not only paint a thorough picture of Julia Child, "the woman", but also of the world itself as a backdrop to Julia's life. The level of detail is fascinating, but it will also put you to sleep if you are not careful. This is not a book to read in bed! The portraits of Julia as a priviledged child, Julia as a rascal of a college student, Julia as an international spy, and Julia as a young married woman, all leading up to the Julia I (thought) I knew today was wonderful. I don't know that I would re-read it anytime soon (unless I was experiencing insomnia) but I would recommend it for anybody with a strong interest in Julia Child.
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on 15 January 1998
Julia Child herself is so interesting--her personality, her life, her accomplishments--I was captivated by this book. Ok, so the author did so much research she apparently couldn't bear to part with a single fact (and either there was no editor on the scene or that person was way too nice about the job), but if you keep moving (especially past the childhood), it's well worth the effort. I was pleased to have the full range of this remarkable woman's life laid out so I could reflect on how much she has contributed. What a life!
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on 7 November 1997
While I must commend the author on her exhaustive and splended research, I came away from "Appetite For Life" more disappointed than pleased. Something is missing here. We have the facts, laid out in paragraph after paragraph replete with parentheses. But where is the spirit, the elan, the brio that is Julia Child? Where is the sensual, sexy soul of the man who cherished this gawky, coltish young woman and supported her in her career? They are hinted at, but never revealed. If only Fitch had given us the complete text of even one of Paul's delightful poems to Julia, it would have helped to capture that "thing" they had for each other. I was lucky enough to read the one about her warbling voice when it was published in the New York Times Magazine and I was so hoping to read it again here. In summary, do read this book - especially if you do not already know Julia's background. But, to really know Julia, watch the PBS reruns and read her own cookbooks!
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on 7 April 2011
This book could have been much more . Mrs Child hardly emerges from turgid , often inconsequential details and stilted prose. A missed opportunity to dig behind the narcissistic post-war US food world. Saint Julia was an active player in that world but this reads like a very authorised biography! If readers want more insights and finer writing see Robert Clark's landmark bio of Jim Beard The Solace of Food.
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on 18 November 1997
My pleasure in this book has been enhanced by having actually crossed paths with Julia Child several times, after myself having moved to Cambridge from her own native Pasadena. She strode towards me once in the crosswalk at Harvard Square and made a similar impression on me as a basketball player once did at UCLA: monumental yet agile. Later, while going over the pre-wrapped meats at her favorite grocery, Savenor's, I glimpsed her in the sanctum sanctorum of the butcher, standing capably at the chopping block flanked by several relatively small men in blood-stained aprons, while she manipulated the ribcage of a steer. Noel Riley Fitch manages to convey the remarkable physical and emotional balance at the core of her subject. As Paul Child's letters to his twin brother proclaim, his Julia is "characterful." From her pre-school days at Montessori (whose alumni include Anne Frank) where calm, independent exploration in a "controlled environment" taught her dexterity and peacefulness, to her early adulthood in China (which helped to sever the bond with too-predictable Pasadena), we learn how she came to challenge the food Establishment. Nor was she one to become embroiled in the brushfires of political correctness. I envy her the post-War days in Paris where she and Paul arrived as benign conquering heroes. Then the French were happy to teach those who wanted to learn (with the exception of one lackluster head of Cordon Bleu). Perhaps the Julia's of the world can always find the lights on for them. In spite of her approval of their French fries, Julia had too much of the spirit of adventure to confine herself to McDonald's-type outposts in foreign lands. Her stay in China got her mingling with the locals and picking up a little amoebic dysentery which she probably shrugged off as the price of admission. Ms. Fitch has managed a mass of material, perhaps so much because a characterful life is an open book. At times the author's energy flags in pursuit of her subject, but it is a small fault. Anyone's would.
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on 14 January 1998
A friend gave me this book for Christmas -- and I will always praise him for his true talent at picking out the perfect gift for me. From December 26, the day I began reading the book, until I concluded last Friday night, I was captivated, enthralled, and swept away to the wonderful world of Julia and Paul Child. I grew up in the midwest, the son of a mother who believed firmly that if it came in a can or was frozen, it was good food. At about the age of 22, I became interested in food, preparing it, and why some food tastes so good and some is so flat, lifeless and dull. I was fortunate enough to visit Paris about 15 years ago -- and instantly fell in love with French food, French people, and the French love of food beautifully, simply, and elegantly prepared and served. Thanks to the cooking shows and the books of Julia Child, I have become quite an expert cook. And thanks to Julia Child, I have learned that simplicity of preparation, the freshest of ingredients, and care in the serving are the best things that you can bring to food. I found every page of the book interesting and compelling -- especially the part about the writing of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume I. The details of what went into creating this masterpiece of cookery kept me reading, as if it were a mystery, and I was waiting to discover the solution. I recommend this book to all Julia fans and to all fans of fine food.
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on 22 October 1997
Noel Riley Fitch's biography of Julia Child introduces us to a very complex, interesting and compassionate woman. What we learn in the bio is that Julia's passion for living and learning has been life long. Epstein's bitter, angry review of the book in The New Yorker magazine completely misses the point. When I want to find out about Julia's passion for food, I simply open one of her cookbooks and read it.
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on 11 November 2012
Although I read this book with some enjoyment, I felt that a competent editor might have wielded the red pencil with a little more authority. If Julia and Paul gave a dinner, you felt that every name would be mentioned, and I almost gave up reading near the end with all the shenanigans at the California Institute. The book does, however, give a more rounded portrait of Paul Child than Bob Spitz's does, and the reader comes to realise that Julia Child was probably more the creation of that talented and frustrated artist than she was by her own efforts.
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on 25 February 1998
A very long read. Having grown up with Julia on Channel 2 in Boston I had a strong interest in finishing the book. But I kept skipping ahead to get the endless details out of the way. Fascinating stories along the way but not many people will stick it out. My one-line review says it all.
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