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Read Three Junes (2003)

Three Junes (2003)

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3.55 of 5 Votes: 4
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0385721420 (ISBN13: 9780385721424)

Three Junes (2003) - Plot & Excerpts

This is one of those stories that I suspect will stay with me, but this time it's partly because of so many unanswered questions and in a sense longings I had for the characters that never quite panned out. But perhaps that's the point. Three Junes is told from three different points of view in different time periods - with lots of flashbacks from the characters' memories. The three point-of-view characters are an older, recently-widowed man, Paul McLeod, his oldest son Fenno, who is gay, and a young woman named Fern who in a sense ties the whole series of stories and memories together. My favorite of these three characters was Fenno, my least favorite Fern, but perhaps because I saw some of my own weaknesses in her, a tendency to let others' influences provide her too easy excuses for not doing what she loves and wants to do. A sense that she does what she considers to be inevitable instead of what she wants. The others do this too, but she being the female was perhaps easier for me to identify with and find fault with as well. But don't we all do this to some degree? We let life and others lead us around, but there's that saying, "Go with the flow," and maybe it's not always such a bad thing to do. It's just that as a creative person I don't like to see anyone's creativity suffer for it.One of my favorite characters is a red, blue, and violet Eclectus Parrot named Felicity, who sings scales whenever it rains. The bird belongs to Fenno's friend Malachy, but Mal persuades Fenno to take care of her, in fact adopt her, and she is a somewhat important part of Fenno's story as the practical stepping stone to Fenno's relationship to Mal. She doesn't steal the story, but she could if she wanted to.I'm rambling though. Maybe that's because I don't want to say too much about the story, for once I get started it would be too easy to include spoilers - though this is anything but a plot driven book. This is more the slow, psychological kind of story that I enjoy but anyone who needs action and excitement will detest. The book begins in June of 1989 with Paul's trip to Greece, which is where he meets Fern. The settings move between Greece, Scotland (where Paul grew up, raised his family, and runs a newspaper), and Greenwich Village, where Fenno has made his home. Fern is a young American woman, much younger than the elder McLeod, and is more of a fantasy for him, when he meets her on a trip to Greece shortly after his wife's death. In their brief friendship he regains a glimpse of youth, life, hope, and anticipation of the future that helps him return to life and gives his marriage and his new life alone some perspective. (I was relieved there was no clichéd affair to spoil this for me.) Fern unwittingly helps Paul come to better terms with his son being gay, through the simple gift of a painting.The two other Junes, in 1995 and 1999, bring the characters around in a kind of spiral, ending with Fern's portion of the story, and a visit to Long Island. Again I don't want to spoil it for anyone. There is a lot of heartache and longing between these pages, and I found a surprising number of passages I wanted to savor and even quote.One thing I noticed about myself as a reader, while digesting this novel, was how I visualize some characters as actors that I know of, and following on that I was struck with the idea that one of the characters, Mal, might have even been visualized by the author as Johnny Depp. I could swear I heard his voice in the dialog.My biggest quibble with this book is not that it ended, but that it ended too abruptly, though now that I've had a few hours to digest that, I realize I can tie the ends together as I wish, in my mind, or let them be. Perhaps the lack of conclusion is a gift.

Three Junes is a novel following, for the most part, a Scottish gay man in New York. He is rather personality-less, with a penchant for being on his own. Most of his aloneness hinges on his fears of relying on someone else and the current AIDS scares (this is set in the late 1980s). The book is separated into three parts, starting out from the point of view of his father. It goes back and forth between different times with his wife and children, and the "present" time after his wife's death on a tour of Greece. I have to admit, I was wanting more description of the places he visited in Greece as they were all places I've been, but alas, the story stuck with his strange, generic tour mates. When the wife/mother was in the story, she was highly un-likeable, it seemed that every time she spoke with her husband, she had her back turned, as if he was not near important enough. The second, and largest part of the book is from Fenno, one of three sons of the father from the first part. This section goes back and forth between the "present" when his father has died and he is back in Scotland with his brothers and their families, and his life in New York a few years before in which he was secretly involved with a secretive nomadic man, Tony, and friends with Mal, a man dying of AIDS. His relationship with both men seemed rather the same except for the sexual nature of them. With Tony, it was basically an ongoing booty call where Fenno is just there when needed and pines when Tony is away. With Mal, Fenno waits on him as a doting son or nephew, never really expressing his enjoyment of Mal's company to Mal himself. Throughout, Fenno appears destined to live his life alone forever.The third, and last, section is from the point-of-view of Fern, who I believe is one of the people on the Greek tour with Fenno's father. I'm still not sure this is the case, as I had the impression that she was middle-aged and this Fern, who is several years later than the first two sections, is considerably younger than middle-aged. She is alone as well, being widowed a couple years before. She is pregnant with her boyfriend's child (who is Greek - figure that out) but she has yet to tell him of the child. She is friends with Tony (exes to be exact - again, figure that out), and visits him and meets Fenno and one of his brothers. ***Spoiler***The ending is rather open, with the reader led to believe Fern is possibly going to do the right thing.***end spoiler***The book's style, with the going back and forth between times with just a little break in the text to denote a change (no notes on time, year, etc.), is rather disconcerting. I had a hard time figuring out when it was and who was there and who knew what. And with the Fern at the end, I was very confused at her appearance, and why it was decided the book should end with her, was unclear. I was glad that Fenno was in the last section, but felt a little cheated that most of the book was about him, from his perspective, and then I as taken away from him and pushed to another consciousness. Overall, the book was interesting, but the style and not very likeable characters detracted from it. I think that I wouldn't recommend this to anyone. But I wouldn't tell someone not to read it.

What do You think about Three Junes (2003)?

This book took me a while to get into, and it never became a page turner. My mom and I talk about books quite a bit, and on more than one occasion, she asked if I was still reading this and whether I liked it. I kept saying, "I'm not sure yet." And not because it was badly written, or boring, or even just 'not my cup of tea,' but because I kept wondering where it was going and whether it was going to get there. Don't get me wrong; a lot happens, but so much of the book is told in flashbacks that you already knew what was going to happen before it did. I guess it mostly lacked suspense. Most authors struggle a great deal to cultivate suspense about at least one storyline in their novel. I felt a little bit like this author strove not to include any. Yet it was lovely, enchanting book. Most of the characters were so interesting, so lifelike, that I wanted to actually meet them. In a book with story lines including infertility, infidelity, AIDS, and terrorism, some of the most beautiful, most poignant moments were the "nothings," the spaces in between the tragedy and quandary. The author focused in on the choices people make: from the infinitesimal (whether to slouch in one's chair or behave with good grace at a dinner party) to the vast and life-changing (whether to get married or move across an ocean). She looked at the relationships between people, and how love is born, or built.Finally, if you are going to write a book without a lot of suspense, you had better be a damned good writer. I think Julia Glass is. This is the kind of book where you don't mind if it isn't a page-turner; it's almost better read slowly, to build images and pick out particular words. All in all, though I spent much of the book being unsure if I liked it because I didn't know where it was going, when I got to the end and realized that it wasn't going anywhere because it had been there the whole time, I was thoroughly delighted.

Three Junes takes place during three summers in the lives of a Scottish family starting is June of 1989. Paul McLeod, the recently widowed patriarch, travels to Greece with a tour group and meets Fern, a young American artist. He thinks back on his marriage and the realization that his wife cared more for the Collies she bred than her family. She had an affair with a neighboring man who also bred dogs and he finds the letters they wrote of their love. Six years later, Paul's death reunites his sons at Tealing, their idyllic childhood home. Fenno, the eldest, faces a choice that puts him at the center of his family's future. A gay man, he leads the life of an expatriate in the West Village running a book shop until the day he meets Tony, a photographer with whom he has a sexual relationship. His twin brothers, David and Dennis are both married and their stories are told through Fenno's eyes.Another important character is Malachy, a friend of Zenno who has Aids. A description gives the process of his disease and the pain it causes Zenno.The final June takes place in 1999 and is told from the point of view of Fran who was in a relationship with Tony until she realized he was gay. Fran is now pregnant with a baby from her relationship with Stavros; she has been married before to Jonah and doesn't want to risk failing again as a wife. The novel is complicated and reveals relationships in families and in love. This is Julia Glass's first novel and a huge success for her.

This is an odd book. The first and third of the three sections are anchored by a woman named Fern who is a catalyst for critical transitions for different members of a Scottish family who she meets many years apart, in Greece (the early section) and the Hamptons (in the later section). She has no awareness that the people she is meeting are related to each other. The family themselves are the subject of the long middle section, which is a first-person account by the gay (favorite) son of the man who's point-of-view dominates the dull (and lengthy) first chapter. This son is by far the most charismatic character in a constellation that is saturated with stereotypical stand-ins for ordinary people. It takes a master like Wolff or Forster or James to illuminate the ordinary moment and elevate it to literature. Glass does not rise to the occasion. Each section presents alternating scenes; in each section there is an alternating "present" moment and a flashback. This reader could not help suspecting that the auhtor lacked the confidence to attempt to sustain a single story and cross-cut to create "drama" where no drama existed. This novel wants to be a Merchant-Ivory film but it is at best a made-for-tv film to be shown on Lifetime.If I seem to have been underwhelmed, you understand me perfectly. Glass is a competent writer telling an unremarkable story in an understated way.
—Neil Litt

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