Sunday, March 1, 2009

Scotland to Greenwich Village

"Three Junes" was Julia Glass’ first novel, written in 2002 and winner of the National Book Award for Fiction. At first I resisted the book because, for some reason, I didn’t think I wanted to read a book about three women named June. But “Three Junes” is not about three women named June. The novel is divided into three short stories that take place in the month of June in 1989,1995 and 1999. Each story stands on its own but is connected to the others. The opening story, “Collies” was first written as a novella. The novel is the story of a Scottish family that takes place over a decade and the family characters reappear in each story.

The story begins as Paul McLeod, the patriarch of the family, travels to Greece to find himself after his wife of thirty years has died. In the third person narrative we relive the past with Paul as he attempts to understand his complicated marriage and surprisingly finds a new life that he never would have imagined. Julia Glass writes with subtle humor as she describes, through Paul’s eyes, the absurdities of a tour of middle aged travelers led by a feckless, young, self absorbed tour guide on the make.

The second story takes us to Scotland and the McLeod family home, Tealing. Paul has died and his three grown sons have come to bury their father. This reunion is narrated by Fenno, the eldest son, who has moved to New York City. Fenno is a wonderful voice as he takes us back and forth from his structured, expatriate life as a gay bookstore owner in Greenwich Village to a series of family and personal revelations, at Tealing, that threaten to unravel his life. The characters in this section are the most interesting and developed as the story travels back and forth from New York to Scotland.

The final story takes place in a summer home on Long Island where Fenno meets Fern, a young woman who his father became infatuated with on his tour of Greece. This story brings the book to a satisfying conclusion.

“Three Junes” is a story of love in all its different and complicated forms. It is essentially about the love that exists between a husband and wife, between parents and children, between lovers, and poignantly between animals and their owners. In her first novel Julia Glass has shown a talent for developing strong characters, putting them in exciting places and writing a compelling story.

1 comment:

  1. I'm so glad you explained the title. I, too, thought it was about three women named June. I wonder why we thought that.