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.
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)