Thursday, August 04, 2011

Centuries of June by Keith Donohue

Centuries of June by Keith Donohue takes place in a bathroom of an old house just before dawn one night in June, when a man ends up on the floor with a hole in the head. As he tries to figure out how he ended up there, he is interrupted by eight women who have been lying in the nearby bedroom. These suspects help him answer the questions, who is he and what is he doing on the bathroom floor?

Although the initial summary of Centuries of June was quite odd, I had no idea how strange and unusual a novel it would be until I started reading it. In fact, it feels more like a collection of linked short stories than a novel, with interludes between each story connecting them and taking place in the present time and location. The focus of the book are the stories each woman has to tell, stories drawn from history and legend. These include a woman who fell in love with a shape-shifting bear, a victim of the Salem witch trials and a slave saving for her freedom. There's also a woman disguised as a man stranded on a tropical island, a housewife looking to get rid of her husband, two gold prospectors who manage to strike it lucky, and a young lady who falls in love at a baseball game. What makes Centuries of June so interesting is the diverse set of characters and their unique stories, Donohue makes each time period and location come alive with these tastes of what it was like.

Centuries of June is an unexpected mix of historical and fantasy, although some it is clearly very well researched, other portions are quite surreal. It was definitely the historical parts that I enjoyed, the stories that each of these woman have to tell. The actual narrator wasn't felt a bit flat to me and never really came alive in the way I was hoping, and the scenes that take place in the bathroom were odd and creative but not something I was particularly riveted by. For this reason it was actually the ending, which focuses on answering the many questions the reader has about the narrator, that I found to be the least interesting portion of the novel.

In the end, there are two sides to Centuries of June by Keith Donohue- the surreal and the human, and although I far preferred the historical stories to narrators' mystery, the entire novel offers quirky and intelligent writing that definitely has me intrigued to see what other oddities are in Donohue's repertoire.

Release Date: May 31st, 2011
Pages: 352
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This review was a part of TLC Book Tours. Click here to read what other tour hosts thought. For the purpose of this review I was provided with a copy of the book which did not require a positive review. The opinions expressed in this post are completely my own.

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