Sunday, May 23, 2010

Cleaving by Julie Powell; a review

My lovely friend Sabrina regularly reviews the books that she reads on her blog, and I have decided to follow suit.  Tonight I think I am one of exactly 5 people in the USA not interested in the Lost finale, so I figured I would go ahead and start!

As you know, I am a bit obsessed with reading, and have been making a concentrated effort to read more books on top of the stacks and stacks of magazines that I accumulate. I've only finished 4 so far, which is kinda sad actually, but I will try to go back and review some of the others soon.  Also, I have become a library of sorts, lending out my books and DVDs to lots of friends.  Currently I have loaned out (at least) 36 books & dvds in the past 2 months (!!) and am now keeping lists of who gets what and when.  It's a nice way for me to find out what is good without actually having to read it!  Currently I am on a memoir/biography kick, so that's what you will see a lot of for the first bit at least.

So, on to Cleaving.

For those of you who don't know, this is the second memoir from Julie Powell, of Julie & Julia fame.  Around the time of the book/movie hoopla, it seemed to become a type of sport to hate on Julie, especially in the food blogging community, but I never fell in with that.  I read the original book before the movie and still occasionally meander to the blog that started it all to read through the posts.  Yes, Julie can be crass, and isn't a "cook" per se, but I kind of like the lack of refinement and the honesty that she has. 

Or, I did like it....

I won't lie.  This was a hard read.  Not hard as in poorly written and impossible to follow, but in that the book is so raw and graphic and painful and messy.  I don't like infidelity.  In the past year or so I have watched people that I know and love walk through the pain of affairs and try to salvage their relationships, but I have not seen it from this side.  From the side of the adulterer.  And I had a really hard time getting through that.  Julie writes in such detail of her relationships with her husband and lover and basically wanting to have both yet to run away from both at the same time.  I just can't wrap my mind around that kind of thinking I guess.  I knew before getting the book that this was the subject matter but I had imagined that it would be more about her marriage in the aftermath of the affair and how she and her husband "cleave together."  Nope.  Because the affair goes on for 2 years and her husband knows about it and has his own thing on the side too, yet they are staying married...yeah, just not the way my mind works. 

I do enjoy her writing style and the way she narrates the stories, though it is definitley self-centered (but isn't all blogging?).  The butcher shop parts are very detailed and could be boring--and/or disgusting--for someone who is not interested in food, but they just make me want to cook some meat.  (and there are plenty of recipes for the cook!) She weaves her life and the art of butchery together fairly well without being obviously metaphorical. 

Honestly, I most enjoyed the second half of the book: her apprenticeship has ended and she takes off to travel around the world learning about butchery in other cultures and, in doing so, (naturally) ends up learning more about herself and her relationships with the men in her life. The whole thing ends fairly anticlimactically and leaves the reader wondering...but that's life right??

So would I recommend it?  I can't say yes, but I didn't hate it.  I just think the reader should be prepared going in.  So many people fell in love with the Amy Adams portrayal of Julie in the movie, and this is not the same character.  This Julie is unlikeable for most of--even all of--the book (some people may argue she was unlikeable in Julie & Julia, so if you didn't like her then, you really won't like her now), and though I think there is some growth by the end, it is a portrayal of an inhereantly selfish and often immature woman who is constantly searching for things to fulfill her.


  1. I didn't care for this book that much either. I loved Julie and Julia and read it in a day while on vacation last year, but this one.. I struggled to get through it even though I just wanted to throw it aside most of the time. (I hate starting books and not finishing them). It was completely self centered (and a little too TMI at points) and I was pissed off most of the time I was reading it. Definitely not in my read again pile.

    And you're not the only one that could have cared less about Lost. I made it the entire run of the series without watching a single episode.

  2. I really appreciated reading your review of this book. I'd heard that the second half is good. I'll put it on my "wait for the paperback" list.

  3. hummm... so glad to hear the review. i am lost on if I want to spend my time reading it or not. i really disliked her in the first book- but oddly felt the need to keep reading about her at the same time.

    and i am glad you are a library now! haha!

  4. Ok, so I only know of you from the movie. I loved it. I was distraught though about the part that claims Julia didn't like you. I wish that would have been left out. I completely understand where you were coming from during the Julie/Julia project (0r think I do from the movie) I have seen it several times, loved it. Life is hard especially for women trying to be so much to so many people and themselves. It was inspirational to me. Hope all is well.

  5. OOPssssss. I thought this WAS Julie Powell's blog. So sorry, should have read it closer to realize its a review.