Almost in time for Christmas I finished Julia Glass’s Three Junes, the last of the Christmas gift books from 2016. Why did I wait?! (Okay, it wasn’t on purpose. I kept the stack of Christmas books by my bed and picked one up everytime I had a lull between book club books, or top recommended, or stumbled-upon-it-and-couldn’t-resist). Anyway. Glad I finally read it. Glad for the gift (thanks, mum) and glad to be able to share it with you.
It’s a novel in three parts narrated by three different perspectives. If you’re like me you instinctively now hate the book because why would you want to invest in one protagonist and narrative point of view only to have it abruptly change? Well if I’d had my choice, I wouldn’t have either, but! the novel does it with purpose and pulls it off brilliantly and you end up *grudging admission* loving that you get to see events and people through the different lenses. As if that was, in fact, the thematic point to this formal choice. Ugg. Like Glass had a ‘plan’ or something. Certainly because the second part of the novel is first person and the other two are third person limited, you end up identifying more with the character in the second half, but that seems fine with me.
I don’t want to tell you too much about the plot (and if you do pick this one up, I’d encourage you to resist reading the back cover) because the people who write plot summaries of this novel seem to think the book is about this one Thing and in my humble reading opinion it is about that one thing, but mostly it’s about love. All the weird and wonderful permutations and expressions of love. All the people we can give our love (I wrote that originally as ‘place our love on’ which felt too forceful and nonconsensual, but I do think there’s an element of this giving – unsolicited – of love that is explored in the book). This exploration happens through prisms of family, of neighbours, of strangers, of community. It happens through looking at love in habit, love in accidental encounter, love in secret. It explodes small or cliche ideas of loving relationships and asks readers to think big and think broad about who and how we love and are loved.
All this done through a conventional realist narrative full of complex characters and compelling conflict. With subtle and unpretentious beautiful writing.
I wonder whether I avoided this book because it looked like a ‘family drama.’ Another in the long line of exploring this dynamic through the quotidian and personal of a set of characters. And because I thought *yawn* been there. read that. This book is a family drama and yet it is the best of its genre. The characters lurk and linger and you find yourself thinking about love in your life with different kinds of questions and perspectives.
It is not the best book I’ve ever read. I’m not yelling at you to read it the way I did (and will again) A Little Life or everything by Margaret Laurence. But it is a delight. And you’d do far worse if you’re casting about for a first book for 2017.