March 21

Dearie and The Art of Hearing Heartbeats


What an education reading “Dearie,” Bob Spitz’s tantalizing biography of Julia Child was. I loved every word of his sophisticated vocabulary and his ability to portray this exceptional woman whom many of us knew only as of the frumpy TV character who embraced cooking as a ceremonial rite. Talking all the while, she entertained us as well as taught us how to do everything from boil an egg to fricassee meats of every description.

We see the evolution of a privileged, spoiled young California woman, equipped with graduations from a finishing school and Smith College, idling away her days as a social butterfly, a true dilettante, to a dynamic and capable civil servant as a clerk for the OSS during World War II. There she met the love of her life, Paul Child, and their marriage became legendary. She, who played down her looks, was 6’3” and described herself as “too long,” developed her own flair for television and after years of hard work and disappointment, she published “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.”

Her pluck and exuberance are so well identified by Spitz. It is a pleasure to read him.

It is special when you study a country that many of your book club members have visited. A description of the country of Burma supplied by them when we talked about Jan-Phillip Sendker’s love story set in Burma, “The Art of Hearing Heartbeats,” and their impressions of the things they saw there were decided additions to the discussion.

In this book, a prominent New York lawyer suddenly disappears and the only clue his wife and daughter find is a love letter he wrote years ago to a woman in Burma. His daughter, Julia, traces him to the small town of Kalaw where the woman lived. The book spans the period between 1950 and the present and describes the hardship endured by the characters. You will meet other characters-MiMi, UBa, and Tin Win-and witness the power of love.

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