Their correspondence starts with a knife: Julia writes a letter to Avis DeVoto’s husband, a journalist who has written an essay on knives; Avis responds and starts an enduring friendship. Both women are revealed as savvy cooks, brilliant conversationalists, and with the same political leanings – not a stretch, since McCarthyism was in full swing at the time.
If you’ve forgotten from the movie, Julie and Julia - or Child’s own tome, My Life in France - DeVoto was the catalyst who, with her connections in the publishing world, steered Julia into the contract with Houghton Mifflin and then Knopf to the Mastering the Art of French Cooking volumes that we know today.
To be honest, I did not read every letter. The information is the same as in My Life in France, but without the haughty persona of the public Julia. In her letters – sometimes really long letters – Julia is gossipy, chatty, her real self.
“Whom shall I write to, for fun, when you are away?”
I did skip over the cookery lessons, the back and forth about herbs, frozen foods, and casseroles. But I enjoyed the inside information that you can only get when someone reads the letters you’ve sent to a good friend – not expecting that any other eyes will see them.
Did I like it? Actually, I liked My Life in France more; it seemed easier to read. These letters were recently unsealed from the DeVoto estate, and Reardon keeps them in tact and in chronological order – with only a few explanatory asides. At times, reading them felt like research.
If you have not yet read about Julia’s life from the many books out there, you will probably find As Always, Julia more interesting. But Julia Child is an icon that endures, and Julia fans can never get enough of her.