Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Book review: Three Junes

It took me a long time to finish this book. I started it in late April or early May, just before I was possessed of the idea to re-read all the Harry Potter books. True to its title, the action takes place during the month of June, during three separate years, over the course of 10. The first part reads like a novella and is interesting. The second part is as long or longer than the other two put together and it dragged for me. I was relieved when the character who was dying finally died. The last was another little novella, and it was better.

The writing is masterly, and the author's depth of understanding of the Scottish and Scotland, as well as New York City, are amazing. The structure of each section, a story in the present with flashbacks to the past, is interesting, and it worked well in the two novellas. The long middle section, though ... something didn't work with it there. The "contemporary" story was contentious and therefore somewhat tedious. The flashback story, of a character dying, was frustrating.

The main characters are well-drawn and believable. One of the interesting things about the unusual structure is that we get to see many characters from different people's points of view. Each section is told in the first person of a different character, but the cast is the same throughout (give or take deaths, births, and the introduction of a new narrator character in the final section.) Interesting as well, the first two sections are told by men, the last by a woman.

Three Junes won the National Book Award, and I can see why was I write about it, but it is not so satisfying a story as say, Jeffrey Eugenides ' Middlesex, was. Still, it could be that right now I am more interested in reading mythic stories like Harry Potter than realistic modern fiction .

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