Keith Donohue – Centuries of June
91. Centuries of June by Keith Donohue (2011)
Length: 344 pages
Genre: Literary Fiction, splashes of Historical Fiction in the short stories.
Started: 05 July 2011
Finished: 09 July 2011
Where did it come from? From Crown Publishers via TLC Book Tours.
Why do I have it? I’ve enjoyed Keith Donohue’s previous books enough to want to see what he’s come up with for his new novel.
How long has it been on my TBR pile? Since 25 May 2011.
A nighttime trip to
the bathroom turns into a
saga of stories.
Summary: Centuries of June opens with our narrator, in the wee hours of a June night, falling to bathroom floor with a massive blow to the head. His attempts to figure out what have happened, however, keep getting waylaid by a series of visits from each of eight women that were laying in bed down the hall. Each woman seems initially bent on killing him, and each has their story to tell, starting with the Native American woman who married a bear, and moving through time and space and American folklore.
Review: Keith Donohue is an interesting writer. I don’t say that because I always love his books. Neither The Stolen Child nor Angels of Destruction wound up on my shelf of all-time favorites, and Centuries of June isn’t going to, either. But even so, Keith Donohue’s books are always fascinating, always have something to say, and always are the sort that I’ll find myself still thinking about months after I’ve turned the last page.
Centuries of June is no exception. I generally like the stories-within-a-story set-up, and each woman’s story was completely fascinating, memorable, and true to its unique voice. (It was very similar in structure – although not at all in tone – to Andrew Davidson’s The Gargoyle.) I had more of a problem with the interstitial segments. It was clear that the story had something to say, but I wasn’t always entirely clear on what that was, and I found the narrator’s story much less accessible than the women’s parts. I’m not a big one for existentialism; I made it through Waiting for Godot (which actually figures heavily in Centuries of June) just fine back in high school, but I haven’t had overwhelming luck with modern novels that rely heavily on self-aware, self-reflective existential quirkiness, no matter how well they’re written. (See: The Ghost in Love, How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe.) Centuries of June had an interesting idea, and was well-written, but the tone of its overarching story was just not my cup of tea. So, while I wound up feeling disconnected from the main character’s story, I really enjoyed the individual short stories it contained, which left the book as a whole with a slight off-kilter feeling… but at least off-kilter in an interesting and thought-provoking kind of way. 3.5 out of 5 stars.
Recommendation: Although it’s not my favorite of Donohue’s books, I think Centuries of June would be worth reading for anyone who enjoys the story-within-a-story format, especially if they like their fiction literary, abstract, and a touch bizarre.
Other Reviews: Fizzy Thoughts, Jenn’s Bookshelves, S. Krishna’s Books plus more at the tour page and the Book Blog Search Engine.
Have you reviewed this book? Leave a comment with the link and I’ll add it in.
First Line: We all fall down. Perhaps it is a case of bad karma or simply a matter of being more prone to life’s little accidents, but I hit my head and fell hard this time around.
Vocab: (see the whole list)
- p. 90: ““A little dejeuner to take the edge off, eh?”” – lunch; luncheon.
- p. 91: “Later, as a college student and then as an intern and junior associate, I lived in a series of apartments, boxlike studios or once a charming pied-à-terre, but those cells were not conducive to anything but a few hours’ sleep.” – a residence, as an apartment, for part-time or temporary use.
- p. 101: ““Well, then, I shall call you Alice since you seem to be the scriniary, or the keeper of that archive.”” – an archivist. (A scrinium is a box in which to keep letters, documents, etc.)
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