CENTURIES OF JUNE by Keith Donohue


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A novel that is sui generis—part fantasy, part realism, part dream-vision.

Donohue starts the narrative by setting a challenging task—sustaining a 350-page novel that essentially takes place in a bathroom and bedroom. He works out the technical problem by having his narrator take a fall in the bathroom, and this tumble leads to visions, specifically a vision of eight attractive women inhabiting his bed. Each has a story to tell, and Donohue lets them speak with different voices and in different styles (appropriate because they come from different historical periods). These narrators include Jane (aka Long John Long), who as a young woman disguised herself in male clothing and escaped from her home as a cabin boy. After her ship is blown off course, she begins a long and lusty affair with several other castaways. Another narrator is Alice, who devolves into a witch and becomes deeply involved in the Salem trials in the late 17th century. We also meet the exotic Marie, whose body is covered with tattoos that reveal the story of her life. Originally a slave from Saint-Domingue, she is taken to New Orleans by her master and eventually becomes an exceptional chef. Other storytellers include Flo, who pans for gold in the 19th-century rush, and Bunny, a femme fatale right out of Raymond Chandler (or Billy Wilder). A tour de force in its mastery of styles, the book also has moments of high silliness—though toward the end Donohue weaves the threads of plot together in a surprising and affecting way.

Peculiar and quirky—and sure to appeal to offbeat tastes.
Pub Date: May 31st, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-307-45028-9
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Crown
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 2011


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