Book Review: Three Junes

Author: Julia Glass

Publisher: Pantheon, 2002

Genre: Literary Fiction

Format: I read this book via audiobook, narrated by John Keating

Source: Public Library

My Rating: A+

Reason For Reading:

I read an interview with the author in which she said inspiration for her fiction comes when a character “visits” her out of the blue. That idea intrigued me so I thought I’d read one of her books to see if I could figure out which character came to “visit”. I read more about Julia Glass learned she shook up the literary world when this book, her debut novel, won the National Book Award in 2002. I had to read this one first.


Three Junes is organized around three different summers spanning ten years. It centers on the McLouds, a prominent Scottish family. In the first section, June 1989, we meet the father, Paul McLeod. He’s recently widowed and on a tour of Greece. The trip gives him time to analyze his life, his sometimes sad marriage, his three sons, and what to do with the rest of his life. He is attracted to a young American painter, Fern, but doesn’t do anything about it.

Six years later the McLeod family has gathered at the family home in Scotland following Paul McLeod’s death. This section is told in the first person by Fenno, the eldest son. Fenno hasn’t seen his twin brothers in a while because he lives in New York City. He’s a gay bookshop owner there. During this June visit Fenno looks back on childhood memories and connects with his now grown brothers, their wives and children. Through flashbacks he looks at his loves and losses. Fenno is asked to make a decision that will effect the rest of his family.

The third section occurs in June 1999. It focuses on Fern, the young painter Paul McLeod met on his tour of Greece. But now Fern is older, a widow, and pregnant, but afraid to tell the baby’s father. Fern has fled to the house where her friend Tony is staying. It’s a small world, but Tony was also Fenno’s lover. When Fenno comes to visit, a late night discussion about love and family helps Fern work through her problem.

All of the characters in this novel were unforgettable; they are beautifully created. The character of Fenno was the one who captured my heart. (I think this is the one that “visited” the author and lead to the rest of the story.) He’s loveable but complicated. He’s intelligent, well educated, but often unsure of himself. His old-world manners often keep him from saying and doing what he really wants. Fenno’s gay lover often breaks his heart.

Some might call this a relationship novel but it’s not. It’s more than that. It’s a mature examination of love in all it’s forms: love between husband and wive, lovers, siblings, parents and children, between friends and even people and their pets. It’s rich in multi-dementional characters, intelligent, sometimes humorous, and extremely well-written.

About the author:

Julia Glass is now the author of four novels that continue to do well. After graduating from Yale in 1978, she intended to be a painter. Her first novel was published when she was 46 and her two children were born after age 40. In her acceptance speech for this award to dedicated it to all late bloomers. I also love the quote from from her acceptance speech: “. . . the relationship that we have with books, I think, is one of the most intimate and fulfilling relationships we have in our lives . . .” (link here)

About the National Book Award

The National Book Award is an annual award in which only books published in the United State in the year of the award are eligible. Nominations are accepted only from publishers although panel chairs are allowed to request a book from a publisher.

There are four categories: Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, and Young People’s Literature. Each category has a panel of five judges who set their own criteria. The judges, new each year, are selected by previous winners and judges and the National Book Foundation. They are “chosen for their literary sensibilities and their expertise in a particular genre.” (from the National Book Award website)


About Margot

I'm also known as Joyfully Retired. I love to talk. I love to talk about books I've read, movies I've seen, places I've traveled to, people (especially my children and grandchildren), and Food. On the Quirky Girls Read blog I'm trying to read all the books that have won the major awards and then, of course, talk about them.
This entry was posted in Award Winners, Posts by Margot and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

23 Responses to Book Review: Three Junes

  1. BermudaOnion says:

    I read this years ago and loved it. I remember being surprised that it was about the month of June and not three women named June.

    • Margot says:

      Three women names June was my first thought two. But – I liked the way the author set the plot in three different years and had things lap over from year to year.

  2. JoAnn says:

    The audio version is very well done, too – I loved it!

    • Margot says:

      It was JoAnn. The Scottish brogue for the character of Fenno was excellent. The narrator did a good job with other dialects as well.

  3. jehara says:

    I like how you give some back story on the author and the story itself. I am writing this one down. I’m also curious about why winning the prize shook up the literary world.

    • Margot says:

      I enjoyed reading about the author almost as much as I enjoyed her story. When the National Book Award was announced that year, Julia Glass was virtually unknown. She won over thousands of other books by well known and highly regarded authors. (Alice Sebold is one I remember). Evidently a debut novel hardly ever wins.

  4. Sounds like a fascinating novel! I love books with unforgettable characters. πŸ™‚ Thanks for the review!

    • Margot says:

      You’re welcome. Yes, these characters became real people for me. For instance, just this morning I was wondering if Fern had her baby and how she’s doing. *Silly goose, she says.* In one of the many interviews with Julia Glass that I read, she said she put some of the characters from this book in her second novel, The Whole World Over. I’ll read it because I am now a big fan of Julia Glass, but also because I want to know more about these new friends of mine.

  5. Annie says:

    I agree with you, Margot ! It’s a very interesting book ! I read it in French !

    • Margot says:

      I’m so glad you already read it. I saw that it had been published in French and thought of you. It was also published in Spanish. Probably more languages, but I’m not sure of that.

  6. izzybella says:

    This sounds really, really good and right up my alley. Usually the thing that fascinates me the most about stories is how characters interact and what drives them. I’m a sucker for the love through-lines. Fern sounds interesting too-I like how she bookends the story with the character. DEFINITELY reading this.

    • Margot says:

      I love it when someone reads a book I recommend. Fern is a good character but you don’t really get to know her until the third section. I’ll be curious what you think of Fenno.

  7. This sounds very good. The premise kind of reminds me of the book One Day.

  8. Margot says:

    The premise is similar but I think One Day is meant to be funny as well as a look at people over time. Three Junes is much more intense although very witty.

  9. Staci says:

    You gave this one an A+ that tell me everything I need to know!! I believe I will start a new shelf at Goodreads dedicated to blaming you for adding to my must read pile!! πŸ˜€

  10. Beth F says:

    I have had this in audio for a long while, but for some reason haven’t read it yet. Must remedy! Great review.

  11. Margot says:

    I hope you can get to it soon. I thought it was perfect in audio.

  12. stacybuckeye says:

    This is one of the fifty that you all chose for me to read last year and I’m glad to know that I’ll probably like it πŸ™‚

  13. kaye says:

    I think I would like this one. I just read a book that is set in scotland that you might like. It’s called “The Winter Sea”

  14. This sounds great! Thanks for the suggestion! I am running low on books. The quirky girls always keep me in supply!

  15. Pingback: My Favorite Award-Winners From 2011 |

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