Skip to main content

Dear Julia

Review

Dear Julia

Sixteen-year-old Elaine Hamilton has been mastering French cuisine and writing letters to her hero, Julia Child, since she was six. These correspondences have progressed from misspelled confessions of recipe disasters to sophisticated questions regarding the nuances of fine cooking. Of course, Julia doesn't answer because Elaine has never sent the letters, packing them away in a wooden chest in her bedroom.

Elaine cooks every day for her family, which consists of her yogi househusband father, her mother and her five brothers. Her dad is extremely supportive and appreciative of her culinary skills. However, her mom, a feminist congresswoman, is horrified that Elaine’s ambition involves life in a kitchen. In spite of this disapproval, she has conquered all the recipes and techniques in Julia Child's cookbooks, except for a continuing problem with making a decent omelet. She wishes she could go to Smith College and then to the Cordon Bleu in Paris, as Child did. However, Elaine's mom is determined that she will follow in her own footsteps and attend Dartmouth.

Shy Elaine has spent all of her spare time fine-tuning recipes and teaching her twin brothers cooking techniques. She has no friends. If she did happen to be looking for a friend, it's doubtful that she'd pick Lucida Sans, whose name was originally Isadora Wilhelminetta Fischburger until she changed it to the name of a computer font.

Lucida spends her time trying to be the center of attention. Her main goal in life is to be very rich and exceedingly famous. The only trouble is, although she has tried a variety of possible routes to fame (baton lessons, singing lessons, dance lessons, sports), she is not very good at anything. Lucida doesn't care what others think of her bizarre outfits, with the exception of one person --- the extremely handsome Croton Harmon. Like Elaine, but for very different reasons, Lucida has no friends.

When the two girls aren't far into their junior years, they meet at a town festival. Elaine is at her mother's booth, handing out campaign materials to voters. Lucida is one of a group of drama students putting on a scene from Romeo and Juliet (Lucida, decked out in an Ethel Merman wig, striped dress, sequined high heels and neon green feather boa, is Juliet --- of course). She squashes her cardboard window, which falls on Romeo. Actors fall off the stage, landing on the microphone. The domino action continues, resulting ultimately in an explosion. When Lucida tells wide-eyed Elaine that the fiasco wasn't her fault, Elaine admiringly assures her it was. The girls bond over Lucida's crazy disaster. Little do they know that their new friendship will change the course of their lives in the most drastic and unexpected ways.

DEAR JULIA is a thoroughly enjoyable read. The characters (including secondary ones), while rounded and believable, are off-kilter enough to be charming originals, and the plot is well-paced. Readers, sensing the authority of Amy Bronwen Zemser's storytelling skills, will keep flipping the pages until they reach the satisfying conclusion.

Reviewed by Terry Miller Shannon on October 18, 2011

Dear Julia
by Amy Bronwen Zemser

  • Publication Date: October 1, 2008
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Greenwillow Books
  • ISBN-10: 0060294582
  • ISBN-13: 9780060294588