This is a biography about a woman who went from one highly unusual world into an entirely different one, isn’t it?
It is – and she’s a hugely inspiring character. Her life began in the strictest, most limiting – particularly for girls and women – community of Orthodox Judaism, which she followed to the letter. The one thing that did interest her, apart from becoming a good Jewish woman, was fashion. She’d sneak looks at Vogue and sketch fashion designs in her spare time, but it looked as though her future lay in being an obedient Jewish wife and mother. She explains the complex Jewish Orthodox rules for women in layman’s terms – and they’re shockingly limiting! I admit to finding her explanations of them fascinating and educational too, though. I used to see Orthodox Jews passing my friend’s hairdresser, around the Eastwood area of Glasgow where most in the city live, and my partner worked for a time as security guard for a Jewish primary school there – and the fact that that was needed in this day and age is both shocking, and sad!
So she ended up getting married off to a Jewish man?
She did, and had four children. It’s only when her youngest daughter started to question the stringent Jewish clothing laws that Julia realised if she didn’t leave, her children would be stuck in a similarly restrictive life. So she began to squirrel away an escape fund, and, at the age of 42, made her escape into the real world, finding a job in fashion – and climbing the ladder incredibly quickly. Within a few years she became creative director of La Perla, the luxury lingerie brand, which is about as far from her previous life as it’s possible to come!
So what did you make of Julia after spending so long in her company? It’s quite a long book… (441 pages!)
I must admit, I really liked and admired her. She demonstrates that it’s never too late to go for what you dream of (remember that, all you bloggers who are wannabe writers!) It goes without saying that she’s highly intelligent, too – and beautiful, as is to be expected from someone who works in fashion! The book came across like spending several hours in the company of a really nice new friend who’s telling you all about their incredible early life. Every time I had to put it down to do something around the house, I was irritated at getting torn away from my new friend!
I had no idea there was a Netflix series, My Unorthodox Life, about her (I rarely watch TV and always question why I pay for Netflix every month!) but I will definitely be seeking that out, to watch how she comes across as a walking talking person, if that makes sense.
The book does end rather suddenly, but that’s perhaps for there to be room for a part two – I have no doubt the second half of Julia’s life will contain enough adventures to fill another volume!
Hugely enjoyable, particularly for fashion fans!
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With thanks to Anne Cater at Random ThingsTTours, who invited me to participate in this blog tour, and to Endeavour Press for my ARC. All views are my own and this is an unbiased review.
BLURB: Ever since she was a child, every aspect of Julia Haart’s life – what she wore, what she ate, what she thought – was controlled by the rules of ultra-Orthodox Judaism. At nineteen, after a lifetime spent caring for her seven younger siblings, she was married off to a man she barely knew. For the next twenty-three years, her marriage would rule her life.
Eventually, when Haart’s youngest daughter, Miriam, started to innocently question why she wasn’t allowed to sing in public, run in shorts, or ride a bike without being covered from neck to knee, Haart reached a breaking point. She knew that if she didn’t find a way to leave, her daughters would be forced into the same unending servitude.
So Haart created a double life. In the ultra- Orthodox world, clothing has one purpose – to cover the body, head to toe – and giving any more thought than that to one’s appearance is considered sinful, an affront to God. But when no one was looking, Haart would pour over fashion magazines and sketch designs for the clothes she dreamed about wearing in the world beyond her Orthodox suburb. She started preparing for her escape by educating herself and creating a ‘freedom’ fund. At the age of forty-two, she finally mustered the courage to flee.
Within a week of her escape, Haart founded a shoe brand, and within nine months, she was at Paris Fashion Week. Just a few years later, she was named creative director of La Perla. Soon she would become co-owner and CEO of Elite World Group and one of the most powerful people in fashion. Along the way, her four children – Batsheva, Shlomo, Miriam and Aron – have not only accepted but embraced her transformation.
Propulsive and unforgettable, Haart’s story is the journey from a world of ‘no’ to a world of ‘yes’, and an inspiration for women everywhere to find their freedom, their purpose and their voice.