After seeing the movie "Julie & Julia" a few weeks ago (I read the book in 2006 or 2007), I became rather smitten with Julia Child. Maybe it's the...moreAfter seeing the movie "Julie & Julia" a few weeks ago (I read the book in 2006 or 2007), I became rather smitten with Julia Child. Maybe it's the fact that I'm approaching a certain age, or that I'm still trying to figure out my creative path in life, or that I'm finally starting to take food seriously. Regardless, watching Julia Child embrace everything in her world with such gusto was truly inspirational. (The fact that she was able to do so in Europe--largely in Paris--didn't hurt.)
The book is a wonderful read--beginning with her first glimpses of France through the porthole of her transatlantic ferry, to her timid inquiry as a 37 year old: "what's a shallot?", to her love affair with post-war Paris and Provence, to the life's work that began as a pastime and quickly evolved into a passion. Her voice is genuine, frank, friendly, unpretentious.
I admire her talent, her drive, and her joie de vivre, but above all her ability to live her very full life without fear and without looking in the rearview mirror.
It's rather hard to condense my views of this book into a few sentences. I had never known much about Louisa May Alcott's life--only that which I'd gl...moreIt's rather hard to condense my views of this book into a few sentences. I had never known much about Louisa May Alcott's life--only that which I'd gleaned from Little Women, which is partly autobiographical, as well as my reading earlier this year of The Concord Quartet (about Bronson Alcott, Emerson, Thoreau, and Hawthorne.)
She deserves whatever attention we can give her as an author and as a woman. Far from the domestic-minded heroines of her most famous novel, she was independent, determined, courageous--and purposefully single. Hers is the destiny that Jo March should have had--and Alcott would have written for her--had not the young female readers of the time demanded that Jo marry. Alcott didn't have the heart to refuse; however, in a clever bit of cunning, she substituted the fatherly and philosophical Professor Bhaer for the passionate and handsome Laurie. Take that, little girls: good sex just isn't as important as a stimulating conversation. ; )
To fully understand Alcott and her determination/independence is to understand her father. Bronson Alcott lived a life of the mind, but with empty pockets. So his family suffered accordingly through all of his idealistic ventures, from the Temple School to Fruitlands and beyond. But it was this very idealism that remained a sustaining force in Louisa May's life, however much she may have grumbled against it in her youth. Her belly may have been empty, and her clothes patched, but the intellectual resources she had at her doorstep enriched her life beyond measure. Emerson prescribed her reading list and gave her full access to his library; Thoreau took her on nature walks; Hawthorne lived next door; and Margaret Fuller, Elizabeth Peabody and other literary luminaries often visited her home.
There are many more subtle and interesting points about this father/daughter relationship that are worth exploring in this book--it's an excellent companion to Little Women, as it gives you a full context for the origin of the book in her life and how it changed both she and her family. Recommended.(less)
This memoir is utterly compelling. As another reader mentions, it is not told in a linear way--we move back and forth through time with the author, an...moreThis memoir is utterly compelling. As another reader mentions, it is not told in a linear way--we move back and forth through time with the author, and there are certainly gaps in her narrative. I actually saw the author at an event in Cambridge a few weeks ago, and it helped me to learn that she approached this book more as a series of essays than an entire work--and she consciously left out part of her life (her marriage and subsequent divorce) because she wanted to keep that aspect of herself private.
Having said this, what she does reveal is extraordinary. Her experiences, her sorrows, her courage, and her forgiveness all left me in awe. Not to mention the fact that the first essay she wrote was on a whim for a class she was attending at the time--and she didn't write it until she was in her forties. (And it won the Pushcart Prize.) Highly recommended. (less)
Motherhood doesn't come easy for lots of women, especially those who defer the chance to have children until later in their lives. I'm on the cusp of...moreMotherhood doesn't come easy for lots of women, especially those who defer the chance to have children until later in their lives. I'm on the cusp of being diagnosed "infertile," and figuring out what path to take from there--IVF, IUI, Clomid, etc. etc., or trying more natural/alternative methods,, or accepting that I won't have biological children of my own. All of it is frightening to me. And all of it is expensive.
I appreciated this book because it offered a roadmap to what my experiences might be like in the coming months/years, some cautionary tales, and some validation. Particularly compelling was Orenstein's commentary on Japanese customs and choices surrounding fertility and motherhood.
A quick read: it only took me 5 or 6 hours. But then I find such subject matter compelling, especially when it has a happy ending (Orenstein conceived/bore a daughter naturally at age 41. It may be a false hope, perhaps, because she didn't have the health problems I do...but it's hope nonetheless.)(less)