I’m catching up on the books my book clubs have read this year. Last week I caught up on one of my book clubs, now I take on the Book Club L. I’m even further behind on this one, so here we go!
Julie & Julia by Julie Powell
Was our January read. At our book club meeting we watched the movie version.
Julie & Julia is the story of author Julie Powell’s attempt to cook every recipe in Julia Child’s masterpiece, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, over the course of a year. Julie writes about this, her blog, her apartment, her job, her husband, and so on. It’s mixed with sections taken from Julia Child’s life.
I liked My Life in France immensely. I didn’t always trust it, but that didn’t actually matter to me– memoirs often aren’t completely reliable. There was so much to it that was interesting– Julia Child as a personality, her food studies, the politics of the day, the places Julia and Paul visited, the people they met, all of these added up to a wonderful book, which I’d give 4.5 of 5 stars.
Book Club Thoughts
The group had mixed feelings on Julie and Julia. Several of us enjoyed it in spite of its flaws, while others simply couldn’t get past Julie, who was admittedly very self centered and often not very nice. Our male group member didn’t like the book at all. The discussion was lively, and helped by the fact we didn’t all agree.
I think we all had fun with the movie, which showed Julie in a more sympathetic light, and made some great choices in the Julia sections. The book used portions of Julia Child’s life when she and her husband were first establishing their relationship. The movie took from the parts of her life covered by My Life in France, after she was married, when she started learning about cooking. Not only was this more interesting, but they more closely paralleled the events in Julie’s life.
It was fun to be able to share the perspective from My Life in France. Several people were then interested in reading it themselves. If you decide to take on Julie and Julia for your book club, I’d strongly recommend the trio of the J&J book, the J&J movie and My Life in France.
Love Walked In by Marisa de Los Santos
was our book for February discussion. It’s a very character oriented book, the story of the lives of a young woman and a young girl, and how they collide.
I just posted my review of Love Walked In and Belong to Me, the followup book. I really enjoyed both books.
Book Club thoughts
The book club loved this one.
I know we had a good discussion on Love Walked In, but I honestly don’t remember much of what we said. I think we were satisfied with it as far as being able to support conversation, and I think I can say that we’d all recommend it as a book worth reading. I do remember that we were sorry our male group member was unable to attend, since we enjoy his perspective on books that are usually seen as being more feminine reads. I think he would have liked it, although perhaps not as much as the rest of us.
A personal note about Love Walked In and our book club meeting. In the book, the character of Teo has a Filipino father and a Swedish mother. My husband is Filipino, I’m half Swedish, so I liked the story Teo told about his aunts coming over to teach his mother to cook Filipino food. I really loved the scene where Teo taught Clare (an 11 year old girl) how to make pancit, a noodle dish from the Philippines. As it happens, that’s one Filipino dish that I can cook, so that’s what we had for dinner that night (Everyone brought something to contribute, with appetizers and some wonderful desserts as well). I think everyone enjoyed the meal. We usually meet in restaurants, so this was an unusual treat for us.
was up for discussion in March.
I’d read this for my other book club shortly after in came out, and found it a very stressful read. Beyond life in Nazi Germany, beyond a young girl’s personal suffering, I felt claustrophobic on behalf of the young Jewish man in the basement. No one else in the group had that reaction. We had a good discussion, but I was eager to put the book behind me. This was before I reviewed or even rated books, so I didn’t have to decide what to do with
Then this book club chose it. I wasn’t pleased, particularly since I knew I’d have to reread it.
This time, I really liked it, giving it a rating of 4.5 of 5 stars.
It was still the same story, narrated by Death, set in Germany during WWII, about a young girl that knows more about grief and misfortune than any child should. However, this time I could appreciate the touches of humor, the friendships that developed, Leisel’s determination to learn to read, and then to acquire books through whatever means possible. I enjoyed the love that developed between Leisel and her foster father, and (thanks to Olive Kitteridge) I could even appreciate the character of her foster mother.
The Book Thief gives a look at the life of the everyday people in Germany during this time. It draws an amazing picture, with unforgettable characters.
Book Club thoughts
We had one of those meetings where we weren’t particularly focused. Sometimes it’s the book, sometimes it’s everything else going on.
I think everyone enjoyed the book. Our discussion was good, but short and largely unmemorable– we were all enthusiastic, but didn’t have much to add to each other’s understanding. We did have an interesting comparison of Leisel’s foster mother to Olive Kitteridge. I think the discussion went better when my other group discussed it, but my memory isn’t good enough to come up with any specifics. I’d disregard this data point as to whether it’s a discussable book.
I’ll finish getting caught up soon! We’ve also discussed Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and Unwind by Neal Shusterman. Next up, we have Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri.
Has your book club read any of the books mentioned here? How did your discussion go?