Summary and book reviews of Three Junes by Julia Glass

Three Junes

by Julia Glass

Three Junes
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  • First Published:
    May 2002, 353 pages
    Paperback:
    Apr 2003, 336 pages

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Book Summary

Elegantly detailed yet full of emotional suspense, often as comic as it is sad, this is a glorious triptych about how we learn to live beyond incurable grief and betrayals of the heart, and how family ties, both those we're born into and those we make, can offer us redemption and joy.

Three Junes is a vividly textured symphonic novel set on both sides of the Atlantic during three fateful summers in the lives of a Scottish family. In June of 1989, Paul McLeod, the recently widowed patriarch, becomes infatuated with a young American artist while traveling through Greece and is compelled to relive the secret sorrows of his marriage. Six years later, Paul's death reunites his sons at Tealing, their idyllic childhood home, where Fenno, the eldest, faces a choice that puts him at the center of his family's future. A lovable, slightly repressed gay man, Fenno leads the life of an aloof expatriate in the West Village, running a shop filled with books and birdwatching gear. He believes himself safe from all emotional entanglements--until a worldly neighbor presents him with an extraordinary gift and a seductive photographer makes him an unwitting subject. Each man draws Fenno into territories of the heart he has never braved before, leading him toward an almost unbearable loss that will reveal to him the nature of love.

Love in its limitless forms--between husband and wife, between lovers, between people and animals, between parents and children--is the force that moves these characters' lives, which collide again, in yet another June, over a Long Island dinner table. This time it is Fenno who meets and captivates Fern, the same woman who captivated his father in Greece ten years before. Now pregnant with a son of her own, Fern, like Fenno and Paul before him, must make peace with her past to embrace her future. Elegantly detailed yet full of emotional suspense, often as comic as it is sad, Three Junes is a glorious triptych about how we learn to live, and live fully, beyond incurable grief and betrayals of the heart--how family ties, both those we're born into and those we make, can offer us redemption and joy.

Chapter 1

Paul chose Greece for its predictable whiteness: the blanching heat by day, the rush of stars at night, the glint of the lime-washed houses crowding its coast. Blinding, searing, somnolent, fossilized Greece.

Joining a tour–that was the gamble, because Paul is not a gregarious sort. He dreads fund-raisers and drinks parties, all occasions at which he must give an account of himself to people he will never see again. Yet there are advantages to the company of strangers. You can tell them whatever you please: no lies perhaps, but no affecting truths. Paul does not fabricate well (though once, foolishly, he believed that he could), and the single truth he's offered these random companions–that recently he lost his wife–brought down a flurry of theatrical condolence. (A hand on his at the breakfast table in Athens, the very first day: "Time, time, and more time. Let Monsignor Time do his tedious, devious work." Marjorie, a breathy schoolmistress from Devon.)
...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
The questions, discussion topics, and author biography that follow are designed to enhance your group's reading of Julia Glass's Three Junes. Glass has made an ambitious debut with a triptych portraying a Scottish family during three fateful summers over a decade of their lives.

  1. Julia Glass is also a painter. How do the style, structure, and description of Three Junes reflect her artistic sensibility? How do the various segments, stories, and flashbacks interspersed within the chronological text work together?

  2. Marjorie, while traveling in Greece, says she cannot stop "collecting worlds . . . different views, each representing a new window" (p. 31). How is the role of the traveler and observer like the role of the author?

  3. Place ...
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    National Book Awards
    2002

Reviews

Media Reviews

Publishers Weekly

The artful construction of this seductive novel and the mature, compassionate wisdom permeating it would be impressive for a seasoned writer, but it's all the more remarkable in a debut.

Kirkus Reviews

Readers may be reminded of Evelyn Waugh and, especially, Angus Wilson by the rich characterizations and narrative sweep that grace this fine debut about three summers in-and surrounding-the lives of a prominent and prosperous Scottish family - a rather formidable debut.

Library Journal - Maureen Neville

Alternately joyful and sad, this exploration of modern relationships and the families people both inherit or create for themselves is highly recommended for all fiction collections.

Booklist - Elsa Gaztambide

Brimming with a marvelous cast of intricate characters set in an assortment of scintillating backdrops, Glass's philosophically introspective novel is highly intelligent and well written.

Author Blurb Richard Russo, author of Empire Falls
Julia Glass's talent just sends chills up my spine; her novel, Three Junes, is a marvel.

Author Blurb John Casey
Three Junes has the rich pleasures of a ninetenth-century novel and the rush of New York life of the last ten years. I'm amazed it's a first novel--it is a mature, captivating work of fiction.

Author Blurb Michael Cunningham
Three Junes almost threatens to burst with all the life it contains. Glass' ability to locate the immense within the particular, and to simultaneously illuminate and deepen the mysteries of her characters' lives, would be marvelous in any novelist. In a first-time novelist, it's extraordinary.

Reader Reviews

Pam Barnsley

This is my favourite book of the year. The author created characters so compelling that I was completely engrossed in their lives; Glass's insight into human nature is impressive. The plotlines made it difficult to put the book down, and the richness...   Read More

Kylie Smith

A fantastic novel revealing the commonality of love, life, and relationships through the eyes of three different individuals whose lives merge in an untimely manner. I enjoyed this book as much, if not more, than I enjoyed Michael Cunningham's The ...   Read More

reader

I liked this book a lot. It's true, as others have noted, that it's slow and thoughtful. What impresses me so much about it is that the writer seems to really get into the heads of others. More than that, she portrays so well the assumptions, ...   Read More

MG

Yawn
A fussy sort of book that plods along. I really do not understand the rave reviews. It was difficult to care about the characters. And I agree that the ending was too tidy to digest.

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