Library Journal Review
Readers may think they know Julia Child thanks to the recent Julie & Julia book and movie phenomenon. Even so, they are in for a treat with this release of the correspondence between Child and her friend and publishing mentor, Avis DeVoto. Noted culinary historian Reardon (M.F.K. Fisher Among the Pots and Pans) traces their friendship from Child's first fan letter to DeVoto's scholar husband in 1952 through the publication of Mastering the Art of French Cooking in 1961. Wisely, Reardon lets the two women tell the story themselves, discreetly inserting herself only to frame periods of the relationship with minimal narrative. The result is an appealingly unvarnished depiction of Child and DeVoto in their own words. They share engrossing conversation that reveals much about publishing and period politics and customs. VERDICT As lively as a good novel, this deserves an audience beyond those interested in culinary history. This terrifically entertaining and richly rewarding read will satisfy many. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 7/10.]-Peter Hepburn, Univ of Illinois at Chicago (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly Review
Culinary historian Reardon's collection of the correspondence between Child and her pen pal, Avis DeVoto (portrayed in the film Julie & Julia by Deborah Rush), bubbles over with intimate insights into their friendship. In 1952, Child was living in Paris when she wrote to Cambridge, Mass., historian Bernard DeVoto after reading his Harper's article about knives. Her letter was answered by his wife, Avis, who soon became her confidante, sounding board, and enthusiastic fellow cook. The two met finally met in person two years later. As a part of the publishing community, Avis (who died in 1989) was responsible for securing the publication of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, steering the book first to Houghton Mifflin and then to its eventual home at Knopf. Their letters span a wide range of topics, from cookbooks, menus, recipes, and restaurants to Balzac, sex, goose stuffing, gardening, learning languages, the political climate, Sunday afternoon cocktail parties, and proofreading. Witty, enlightening and entertaining, these letters serve as a compelling companion volume to Mastering the Art of French Cooking. (Dec. 1) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Booklist Review
*Starred Review* Many Julia Child followers already know the story of her extensive letter writing to pen pal Avis DeVoto, which began when DeVoto replied to a fan letter Child had sent to her husband, Bernard. But this volume marks the first appearance of their complete correspondence. Painstakingly compiled by editor Reardon (thanks to new archival access), the letters tell the incredible story of the rocky development of Child's chef d'oeuvre, Mastering the Art of French Cooking (1961). Child and DeVoto's relationship-on-paper began as a cooking one; living in Paris, Child enlisted DeVoto's help in determining what ingredients were available to housewives in the States, her target audience. Their talk of solely cookery-bookery, cutely named by Child, quickly turned to friendly discussions of much more: family, social circles, and the politically taut McCarthy era. DeVoto, plugged into the American literary world, played an integral role in publishing Mastering. Helping one another through hardship (failed publishing attempts) and tragedy (Bernard's death), the women's frank, tender letters are an absolute delight to read, as much for their mouthwatering discussion of cuisine as for the palpable fondness they portray for one another. In an early note, DeVoto calls Child's evolving manuscript as exciting as a novel to read, and, indeed, so are their conversations.--Bostrom, Annie Copyright 2010 Booklist