Title: Centuries of June
Author: Keith Donohue
Release Date: May 31, 2011
Genre: Literary Fiction
Source: TLC Book Tours
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
After a blow to the head, Jack finds himself on the floor of his bathroom. When he comes to, there is a man in his bathroom with him that he can’t identify, someone that reminds him of his father. Sitting on the bathroom floor, Jack is visited by eight different women that tell him a story of love gone wrong set in different periods of history.
If that summary of Centuries of June sounds strange, it’s not just you. This book is an incredibly unique piece of fiction, one whose entire story takes place on the floor of the bathroom where Jack wakes up at the beginning of the book. Each of the women visiting Jack has a different story; there’s Alice, who was accused of being a witch during the Salem Witch Trials. There’s Dolly, a woman who married a man who was half-bear and shunned for it, and Marie, a beautiful woman who was also a slave. These stories come from near and far, but are all rooted in folklore, mythology, and history, and all happen to be set in or around the month of June.
The question that permeates the novel is what do these stories have to do with Jack? And this is where the book was difficult for me. Though it was incredibly creative, I had trouble focusing on the book and getting through it because I couldn’t see where it was going. Though all of the women’s stories were unique and interesting, I found myself slogging through them at times because there was no larger point to me. It’s the reason I don’t usually read short stories; I don’t often enjoy separate, short works of fiction. I much prefer an overarching narrative.
That being said, once I was on the path to the conclusion of the novel and everything started to come together, I began to fully appreciate the beauty of the book. I appreciated the themes (that I can’t elaborate upon without divulging the truth behind the story) and am in awe of what Donohue attempted to do with this novel, and succeeded in doing on many levels. I wouldn’t hesitate to say that this novel is a breathtaking work of literary fiction, just because of how creative Donohue was with his writing.
That being said, I can’t say I loved the novel, just because I had so much trouble getting through it. I have a lot of appreciation for the book, and if I hadn’t been reading it for a set deadline and had been able to read one story per day, I think I would have enjoyed it more and found it easier to read. If you’re a fan of creative literary fiction and writers who take risks with their work, I don’t hesitate to recommend Centuries of June, with the caveat that it should be read slowly and savored. I personally will come back to it in a few months and reread it, and hope I find more pleasure in the act of reading it, now that I understand the connections in this complex work of fiction.