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Keith Donohue – Centuries of June

July 20, 2011

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.

This Review on LibraryThing | This Book on LibraryThing | This Book on Amazon

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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13 Comments leave one →
  1. July 20, 2011 1:35 pm

    I do like bizarre, so I’d like to give this one a try.

    • August 1, 2011 9:14 am

      Kathy – I’ll be interested to see what you think of it!

  2. July 20, 2011 6:58 pm

    Man, what is wrong with me. I have even commented on other reviews of this book and didn’t clue in who the author is…. I have only read his first book, but I loved it! This book has made me curious because of the cover. It’s a bit different!

    • August 1, 2011 9:15 am

      Kailana – Heh, too funny! His books are all so different that you’re not entirely to blame for making the connection, I think. :)

  3. July 21, 2011 1:52 pm

    Interesting that although you enjoyed the individual stories, the overarching story didn’t work for you.

    Still, I appreciate you sharing your thoughts for the tour!

    • August 1, 2011 9:15 am

      Heather – My pleasure! Even though it didn’t quite wind up being my cup of tea, it was still definitely an interesting read.

  4. July 22, 2011 5:22 pm

    It sounds a bit like every man’s secret fear – there are women who are out to kill him only they’re going to make him listen first.

    • August 1, 2011 9:16 am

      Carrie – BWAHAHA! I hadn’t thought about it from that perspective, but I suppose it’s true! :-D

  5. July 23, 2011 9:32 am

    Even though this isn’t on your list of “favorites,” I’m going to look for it – such an interesting premise, and I like things a little “off” sometimes. Plus, it says something that you’ve read other books by Donohue.

    • August 1, 2011 9:17 am

      Dawn – This is definitely a case where it’s absolutely a matter of personal taste, and not a flaw with the book, that kept me from loving it, so I hope you have good luck with it!

  6. July 26, 2011 8:31 pm

    I felt just this exact way about The Stolen Child — there was good stuff in it, but I wasn’t crazy about the writing and how it all played out. Centuries of June is a damn good title too. Shame this wasn’t as awesome as it should have been.

    • August 1, 2011 9:20 am

      Jenny – It is a good title, and certainly relevant, too, although the narrator actually uses the phrase intact a few times… and every time he did, I was all “You said the title! DRINK!” ;)


  1. Keith Donohue, author of Centuries of June, on tour June/July 2011 | TLC Book Tours

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