Skip to content

Review: Cleaving

January 5, 2010

After the success of her first book, Julie and Julia, Julie Powell was searching for a new project.  Since she’d been fascinated with the world of butchery for years, she decided to seek out an an apprenticeship in the art of turning animals into meat.  She had to search for a little while, but finally found Fleisher’s, a butcher shop in upstate New York, willing to take her on for an unpaid, 6 month apprenticeship.

Cleaving by Julie Powell is the story of her life during the time of her apprenticeship.  Fleisher’s and the people who worked there seemed to be just what Julie needed at a difficult time in her life.  Her descriptions of butchery are pretty vivid, so they made me cringe a few times.

I was really excited to listen to the audio version of Cleaving, since I loved Julie and Julia, but  I’m kind of at a loss of how to review it.  I enjoy Julie’s writing style and I think she does a great job narrating her books, but I oftentimes felt like she shared a little too much information.  She seemed to be going through a mid-life crisis (in her early 30’s) during the period this book was set and I felt that she brought some of her issues upon herself with her actions.

Julie’s descriptions of food are fantastic, though.  As I read them, I wished I enjoyed food, and in particular meat, more than I do.  It’s obvious that she has a passion for food and butchery.  Unfortunately, she had some other passions that weren’t quite so healthy.

There are some recipes included in the book, but they’re mostly for meat.  Since I listened to the audio version, I’d have to search for them and write them down, so I probably won’t try any of them.

Cleaving is not a book for the whole family.  I don’t think the language in this book is as bad as it was in Julie and Julia, but there is still plenty you wouldn’t want your children to hear.  There are also some sexual scenes that might offend some readers.  Overall, I’d say this book was just okay for me.  I do hope that Julie Powell has gotten her life in order, because I think she has promise as an author.

Review copy provided by Hachette Books.   I am an Amazon Associate.
51 Comments leave one →
  1. January 5, 2010 7:52 am

    I loved Julie & Julia as well and this book doesn’t interest me as much. Maybe it’s the issue of reading about butchering that is leaving me disinterested. It sounds like she is always dealing with crises in her life that work their way into her books. I hope that she writes another book on baking or something more interesting…I agree that she has such promise as an author.

  2. January 5, 2010 7:59 am

    I loved Julie And Julia but this book doesn’t seem to be getting positive reviews as much as I had expected it would. I might read it from the library . Nice review.

  3. January 5, 2010 8:03 am

    I agree with Bonnie on the butchering subject matter. I loved Julie & Julia (the movie — still haven’t had time for the book), but I don’t think I would enjoy reading in detail how animals are slaughtered. Maybe I will check out the print edition.

  4. January 5, 2010 8:27 am

    I don’t think CLEAVING is what I was expecting but I’m still looking forward to reading it!

  5. January 5, 2010 8:29 am

    Sorry this book was not what you expected. This was one title that did not appeal to me at all. I did enjoy your honest review though. Thanks

  6. January 5, 2010 8:43 am

    I was sorry to read that Julie’s life went this direction. I can understand why it was never mentioned in the movie.

  7. January 5, 2010 8:49 am

    When I first read what this book was about, I honestly thought it was a joke. Not so much the interest in butchering (hey, I like meat and someone has to butcher it…just not me) but the personal stuff. The boyfriend, the S&M…
    Midlife crisis indeed.
    No, I think I will be skipping this one.

  8. January 5, 2010 8:51 am

    You have me intrigued with the yummy food descriptions but who knows if I will be able to get to this one since I didn’t read Julie and Julia either.

  9. January 5, 2010 9:05 am

    I read about this on her blog, and was surprised to find out about her and her husband. She certainly doesn’t hold back on what she shares!

  10. January 5, 2010 9:07 am

    I’ve heard some pretty negative things about this book, so I understand your disappointment with it. I just won this book in a giveaway and so I’m a bit apprehensive about reading it now, but figure I’ll give it a go to see what all the fuss is about. Plus, Julie and Julia was great and though her topics may be a but unsavory in this new text, her writing should still be solid. Cheers for the review – it was the kindest one I’ve read about her book so far.

  11. January 5, 2010 9:10 am

    interesting that she would be fascinated enough with butchery to take on an unpaid internship. weird. and a midlife crisis in her 30s…this must be some kind of new trend.

  12. January 5, 2010 10:16 am

    This seems a similar format to Julie and Julia then. She writes about her life, whilst completing her culinary journey. I will definitely read this one.

  13. January 5, 2010 10:37 am

    Since I’m a vegetarian, I’ll definitely be giving this one a pass. I enjoyed your review though!

  14. January 5, 2010 10:51 am

    I’m on the hold list for this one at the library, and even though I kind of had a feeling that it would be as you have described it (mid-life crisis, etc.) I’m still going to give it a try.

  15. January 5, 2010 11:16 am

    I did enjoy Julie and Julia. This one? Based on the reviews I’ve seen, sounds like she’s gone off the deep end. I was sort of endeared to her husband from her first book, so I have bad feelings about her escapades.

  16. January 5, 2010 11:17 am

    For some reason I’m drawn to this book- perhaps because I am fascinated as to what would make someone cheat on their husband and then write a book about it! Thankfully I’m in a secure marriage, so maybe that is why I’m drawn to the unusual premise. I have this one on hold at my library, so I’ll read it sooner rather than later.

    Thanks for the (as always) honest review!

  17. January 5, 2010 11:19 am

    I’ve heard a lot of the same sort of thing about this book- that the author isn’t a very easy-to-sympathize with character. Don’t think I’ll be reading this one, but that might be more to do with detailed descriptions of butchering than anything else 😉

  18. January 5, 2010 11:39 am

    I haven’t read Julia and Julia or even seen the movie. Those are on my list. If I like them enough I might want delve into her life more.. but then again maybe not. I like meat but I don’t necessarily think I want to know the knitty gritty. Nice Review. Thank you.

  19. January 5, 2010 11:46 am

    Good review, Kathy. I don’t think this book’s for me.

  20. stacybuckeye permalink
    January 5, 2010 12:33 pm

    I think this might make me swear off meat, not appreciate it.

  21. January 5, 2010 12:51 pm

    I really liked Julie and Julia and was looking forward to her next book. Based on the first book, I felt she had some personal issues she needed to clean up. It sounds like she hasn’t done that yet.

  22. January 5, 2010 12:59 pm

    I loved Julie and Julia, and so far the reviews I’ve read agree with you: it’s okay. I’m sure I’ll read it, as I really like her writing style, but I’ll put it off to read other things in the meantime.

  23. January 5, 2010 1:15 pm

    I haven’t read either book, though I’m interested in Julie & Julia (when I get the time) because my Mom had her cookbooks when I was growing up.

    It’s interesting to read your review of Cleaving because I got the same impression from just the description of Cleaving (too much info, bringing things on herself in her personal life), which makes me reluctant to read it. Not to mention that as a pescatarian, learning about butchery isn’t high on my list.

  24. January 5, 2010 1:55 pm

    I just watched the movie of Julie and Julia the other day with Mags, on the recommendation of Gwen, my 15yo, actually. I noticed the “sharing too much” in there, and can only imagine how much worse it is in this one if you’re citing it… lol.

  25. January 5, 2010 2:02 pm

    Wow, you were much nicer to this book than I. 🙂

  26. January 5, 2010 2:56 pm

    Well, I still haven’t found out who Julia is…but what I have found out is, that she must be about food. Perhaps shes a cook?

  27. January 5, 2010 3:36 pm

    I won’t be reading this one…I just don’t like her.

  28. January 5, 2010 4:59 pm

    Very interesting review. I’m heartened to hear that you think she has talent as a writer and that her blog/book wasn’t just a fluke.

    I’m not sure how interested I am in butchering.

  29. January 5, 2010 5:30 pm

    I’m intrigued by the apprenticeship idea but don’t need the grisly details nor the details about her obsessive infidelity.

  30. January 5, 2010 6:07 pm

    Since I loved Julie and Julia so much I think I am destined to be dissapointed in this one since it seems like such a downer although it may be good to read for a comparision, plus real life isn’t always rosy!

  31. January 5, 2010 6:38 pm

    I don’t like the title, and after reading your review (and a few others), I think I’ll have to let this pass…

  32. January 5, 2010 7:42 pm

    I think your review is very kind compared to some I have read for this book. I knew by the title and subject matter that I would probably not read this book. I just don’t want to know how my meat gets from the farm to my table. It just magically appears on styrofoam meat trays, right?

  33. January 5, 2010 7:48 pm

    I’m of two minds about this book. On the one hand, the butchery sounds very interesting and like something I think would be very engrossing to read, but I think the other part of the tale really turns me off. I am not crazy about people who indulge in infidelity and I am not sure I have much respect for her anymore. It’s too bad she had to pollute the book with all that.

  34. January 5, 2010 8:31 pm

    One subject I don’t need to read about is butchery.

    And do you think the mid-life crisis was caused by her success or does it have nothing to do with it?

  35. January 5, 2010 9:19 pm

    That was not what I was expecting by the title. I don’t know if I’d have the stomach for it. You’re a brave reader, Kathy.

    I get all embarrassed for authors when in a TMI situation, don’t you?

  36. January 5, 2010 10:02 pm

    Hi! I just discovered your blog! I’m in the middle of My Life in France Right Now, and am thinking about following it up with Julie and Julia, so it was nice to hear your thoughts on her follow up!

  37. January 5, 2010 10:40 pm

    butchering+infidelity=really not interested

  38. January 5, 2010 11:08 pm

    I think I won this one recently – waiting for confirmation – I’ll see if our thoughts align!

  39. January 6, 2010 12:31 am

    I think this is not my type of book…

  40. January 6, 2010 3:40 am

    You did a great job with your review. My father has been a butcher since he was a teenager and he eventually owned his own grocery store. I worked for him when I was a teen and I really don’t find it to be a topic that would be interesting enough to do what the author did. I thought it was a strange choice. I think I’ll pass on this one too but I really appreciated your post!

  41. January 6, 2010 1:26 pm

    I really enjoyed Julie & Julia, but it seems that people aren’t loving this book. Even though the food part sounds interesting, I’m not sure that I want to find out about Julie’s affair and falling apart marriage – kinda depressing.

  42. January 6, 2010 3:20 pm

    Kathy I felt the same way….
    ( There is a PDF file of the recipes on the last disc)

  43. January 6, 2010 4:12 pm

    I haven’t read Julie and Julia, yet. It’s on the pile. This one just doesn’t sound up my aisle, though.

  44. January 6, 2010 8:28 pm

    fascinating. I read all the one star reviews on Amazon and watched a few videos of her talking about/sometimes defending the book and I thought: this is one I won’t be buying. It made me sad, actually, that this was her follow up book.

  45. January 7, 2010 9:26 am

    I have Julie and Julia although I haven’t read it yet. I am not familiar with this one. I don’t think it’s one that I would get into though.

  46. January 7, 2010 10:48 am

    Not sure I’ll get to this one. Julie & Julia has been on my nightstand for months, and I just can’t get myself to pick it up again. I think I left off on page 60, and I plan to put it back in the unread pile and save it for another time. I really want to see the movie, though.


  47. January 7, 2010 1:52 pm

    JULIE AND JULIA is on my TBR, and I’m looking forward to it. I had decided when I first read the synopsis of CLEAVING that it wasn’t my cup of tea. Interesting play on words with the book title, but the book sounds a bit whiny!

  48. January 7, 2010 5:17 pm

    What’s interesting about all the comments on this book is that they confirm advice that is often given to romance authors: infidelity is a non-starter for the main character unless handled very, very carefully.

  49. January 7, 2010 7:55 pm

    I have Julie & Julia around here somewhere but I haven’t read it yet. I’m thinking of doing a week devoted to food-related books though and I might include it then.

    I know I couldn’t read this though since the last up close and personal view of butchery I read turned me off of any kind of meat for a week or so.

  50. January 9, 2010 8:17 am

    A passion for butchery — I don’t think this Julie and I would get along.

  51. January 9, 2010 9:30 pm

    Hmmm. I listened to Julie & Julia and thought it was wonderful. I loved the movie, but more so for Julia & Paul’s story than Julie and her husband. I have an ARC for Cleaving and I’m planning to read it. I’m just not as excited about it. Not interested in butchery and not interested in Julie’s midlife crisis. Maybe I should just pass on this one, but I do love to read food anecdotes. Hmmm.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: