Title: Cleaving: A Story of Marriage, Meat, & Obsession
Author: Julie Powell
Rating Out of 5: 4 (Really good read!)
My Bookshelves: Food, Marriage, Memoirs
Dates read: 22nd February – 1st March 2020
Publisher: Back Bay Books
5th sentence, 74th page: Why do I more often than not decline Josh and Jessica’s invitations to dinner, Aaron’s elaborate weekend agendas?
Julie Powell thought cooking her way through all 524 recipes in Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking was the craziest thing she’d ever do – until she embarked on the voyage recounted in Cleaving.
When her marriage is challenged by an insane, irresistible love affair, Julie decides to leave town and immerse herself in a new obsession: butchery. She finds her way to Fleisher’s, a butcher shop in upstate New York, where she buries herself in the details of food. She learns how to break down a side of beef and French a rack of ribs – tough, physical work that only sometimes distracts her from thoughts of afternoon trysts.
The camaraderie at Fleisher’s leads Julie to search out fellow butchers around the world – from South America to Europe to Africa. At the end of her odyssey, she has learned a new art and perhaps even mastered her unruly heart.
I wanted to love this book. I wanted to know more about the amazing woman who wrote Julie and Julia. I was seriously unimpressed with the woman who wrote this. Don’t get me wrong, the writing was still fantastic and made it an interesting journey to go on… but the journey. Not really my cup of tea.
I found the detail of the butchery kind of fascinating. In that disgusting, I can’t believe I’m watching this sort of way. Whilst I’m not a vegetarian, I’m also not really much of a meat eater. So the graphic details of how the meat that I eat is broken down… I did find that a little intense. Including recipes throughout of how to cook the cuts that Powell was slicing up was quite an interesting, intriguing way to go about moving the narrative forwards though.
I just can’t understand the need to cheat – the reasons why. The choices people make. And, more importantly, I really don’t get why Powell makes the decisions that she makes. Not only does she have an affair, but she does so in a way that systematically tears apart the man that she loves. He also hangs around and does something similar, but still. There is nothing in her actions that made me feel kindly towards her. Where Julie and Julia was something I could understand – that manic need to find meaning in life, and that constant, weird voice in your head making you constantly question your worth. Her thoughts and actions in this were completely foreign to me. Deplorable. And, honestly, in writing about her experiences, I found her to be a little self-indulgent about her own downfalls.
This isn’t the kind of book that I would normally enjoy. As I said, Powell is just WAY too self-indulgent and forgiving of her mistakes. Of the hurts that she puts on other people. But it is also exceedingly well written. And it was a book that I couldn’t stop talking about the whole time that I was reading it… it was a kind of insane experience. One that I probably won’t repeat, but also one that I won’t be throwing into the giveaway pile. Super mixed feelings in this corner.
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