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JULIA AND THE ART OF PRACTICAL TRAVEL by Lesley M.M. Blume

JULIA AND THE ART OF PRACTICAL TRAVEL

by Lesley M.M. Blume ; photographed by Lesley M.M. Blume

Pub Date: Jan. 6th, 2015
ISBN: 978-0-385-75282-4
Publisher: Knopf

In 1968, after Julia’s aunt Constance is forced to sell Windy Ridge, home to the aristocratic Lancasters since the American Revolution, to Tipsy von Lipp (nee Shirley Hicks), the two set off to find Julia’s mother, Rosemary, who traded pearls for love beads three years earlier.

Julia brings her Brownie camera, and with Lancaster heirlooms—oriental carpets, silver tea service—in steamer trunks, one even lashed to the roof of the station wagon, they drive to Manhattan to stay with Tipsy at her invitation while Aunt Constance combs Greenwich Village searching for Rosemary. Stuck in the suffocating apartment with gloating, vulgar Tipsy, Julia’s inspired to play an elaborate practical joke that quickly ends their visit. The droll, meandering road trip across the United States unfolds in spare but telling detail that draws on Blume’s poignant imagery. But the inconsistent tone—early, broad farce gives way to pointed pathos—and jerky, episodic plot can jar. There’s little sense of the vivid 1960s in the text or Julia’s generic photos. Ridiculing silly Tipsy, a shrill hayseed who’s never seen an oyster fork (how many young readers have?), makes Julia seem heartless—a preteen Eloise. The urban snobbery has a chilling effect. The liveliest, most evocative scenes are those far from civilization and its discontents; it’s in the lonely, arid Texas and Nevada landscapes that the characters come close.

Readers who make it to the heartland with her will find the pleasure in Julia’s travels.

(Historical fiction. 8-12)