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July, July [Paperback]

Tim O'Brien
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Sept. 30 2003
As he did with In the Lake of the Woods, National Book Award winner Tim O'Brien strikes at the emotional nerve center of our lives with this ambitious, compassionate, and terrifically compelling new novel that tells the remarkable story of the generation molded and defined by the 1960s. At the thirtieth anniversary of Minnesota's Darton Hall College class of 1969, ten old friends reassemble for a July weekend of dancing, drinking, flirting, reminiscing, and regretting. The three decades since their graduation have seen marriage and divorce, children and careers, dreams deferred and disappointed-many memories and many ghosts. Together their individual stories create a portrait of a generation launched into adulthood at the moment when their country, too, lost its innocence. Imbued with his signature themes of passion, memory, and yearning, July, July is Tim O'Brien's most fully realized work.


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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

After a comedic hiatus with 1998's Tomcat in Love, O'Brien expands on themes he explored in some of his best-known earlier novels: memory, hope, love, war. It's July 2000 and members of the Darton Hall College class of 1969 are gathered, one year behind schedule, for their 30th reunion. Focusing on sharply drawn characters and life's pivotal moments rather than on a strong linear plot, O'Brien follows the ensemble cast (which includes a Vietnam vet, a draft dodger, a minister, a bigamous housewife and a manufacturer of mops) for whom "the world had whittled itself down to now or never," as they drink, flirt and reminisce. Interspersed are tales of other Julys, when each character experienced something that changed him or her forever. Jump-cutting across decades, O'Brien reveals past loves and old betrayals that still haunt: Dorothy failed to follow Billy to Canada; Spook hammered out a "double marriage"; Ellie saw her lover drown; Paulette, in a moment of desperation, disgraced herself and ruined her career. Comedy and pathos define the reunion days, while the histories often devastate. Because they are such dramatic moments-a tryst that ends tragically, a near-death experience on the bank of a foreign river, the aftermath of a radical mastectomy-some of them feel contrived, almost hyperbolic. Still, this is a poignant and powerful page-turner, and a testament to a generation.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal

The 30th reunion of Darton Hall College gives O'Brien the chance to play with a host of troubled characters. If you think you've seen this before, you're right: it was excerpted in The New Yorker and Esquire.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Moving, engrossing, despite its flaws. Feb. 5 2004
By algo41
Format:Paperback
Despite its limitations, I found this to be a moving, engrossing novel. The class of 1969 is holding a 30th reunion, and while a group of friends commiserate, work on unresolved relationships, and even start new ones, they talk about their past. College occurred during the Viet Nam war, but this is important primarily because one of the characters is seriously wounded, and another character flees to Canada. This is not a political novel. Instead, O'Brien looks with sympathy and some pessimism on the search for love, a good marriage, and a meaningful life. O'Brien makes liberal use of plot devices, and he does not really break new ground, but there is a quirkiness about some of the characters and relationships I found very appealing, and there is an abundance of honest emotion. The imaginary, but mythic character who represents one of the wounded veteran's inner voices is powerful, funny, sardonic. I found weakest the 2 women friends who are constantly drinking and bemoaning their lack of men; their histories are also kind of bizarre.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Certainly Not His Best Work June 23 2004
Format:Paperback
It's interesting that the back cover of July, July, Tim O'Brien's latest novel, compares the author to Don DeLillo. Perceptively, and quite unintentionally, the comparison highlights both the strengths and weaknesses of July, July, exposing a deeply flawed book that still manages to engage the reader. While DeLillo's novels are either tightly constructed studies of one or a few characters or sprawling works like Underworld, with dozens of characters over 800 pages, O'Brien seems to be trying to cram the latter into the pages of the former. Too many characters in too little lead time lead to a book that is disappointing, and yet worth reading.
The novel tells the story of a group of former students returning for their 30th anniversary at a small, fictional college in Minnesota. As one might expect, the characters are all wounded in some way-whether by rage, war, disease, or relationships, and these wounds are explored in context of the reunion and through periodic flashbacks. The characters are mostly quite interesting-the problem is that the novel, at a lean 300 pages, doesn't offer enough time to explore any of them in depth. As a result, the novel leaves strong impressions, but nothing more, about most of the characters, and I was left hoping for more information, and more resolution.
O'Brien also makes some poor choices about how he allocates his pages. Some characters are not terribly interesting, and we keep returning to them. Each time the novel returned to the two women sitting in their dorm room talking, I wanted to flip ahead, to the more interesting characters in conflict. Some of these vignettes are fascinating, with deep characters that you want to return to.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Plot, anyone? June 22 2004
Format:Paperback
Yes, Tim O'Brian is certainly a very good writer... his command of the language, his characterizations, narrative, dialogue, etc. Unfortunately, I expected a lot more when I bought this book. It's an interesting slice-of-life, made better by some interesting characters and scenes. But what else?
I didn't expect a rock-em sock-em thriller - I expected a story that has a beginning, middle, and end. He gave us the beginning, but the middle just went on and on, all the way to the last page.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Surprisingly weak effort Feb. 19 2004
Format:Paperback
O'Brien wrote two books that I consider superior works of modern fiction: "In the Lake of the Woods" and "The Things They Carried" (which I rank with "Paco's Story" as one of the two best pieces of literature to emerge from the Vietnam War). Unfortunately, he fails to approach that level of writing with "July July," a largely hackeneyed effort to resurrect the old high school reunion plot device.
The occasion for the work is a gathering of late '60s high school graduates, all of whom, of course, have failed to live up to the idealistic dreams of youth, etc., etc. We've been in this territory before, but the reader hopes that O'Brien's considerable writing skills will lift him above the book's mundance premise. Alas, it is not to be, and there are at least three reason for the failure.
First, as in a book I recently reviewed, Richard Price's "Samaritan," too much of the novel relies on characters telling other characters what happened to them years before, rather than relating the actions as they occurred. Second, there is often insufficient motivation for characters to even relate these stories -- which, by the way, are often fantastic and strain credulity. For example, one character who has become a church minister relates to a former classmate she hasn't seen for 30+ years a strange story of a clandestine relationship with a man many years her senior and her attempt to break into his house to steal letters documenting the "affair" -- an effort which ended in her dismissal from the parish. We're left to wonder not only why she would reveal all of this, but what in the world would have driven this character to act in the way she did. Since we know very little about her as a younger woman, it's impossible to say.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Moving, captivating!
I suppose that the characters in "July, July," and perhaps their life-experiences and indulgences, might seem trite to readers who were not members of the Vietnam... Read more
Published on Jan. 23 2004 by Peter V. Tonsoline
5.0 out of 5 stars Another Amazing Chapter in The O'Brien Odyssey
I'm frankly astonished by the negative reviews for this novel. O'Brien has written several books that can be considered masterpieces--The Things they Carried chief among them. Read more
Published on Dec 31 2003 by Robert Wellen
2.0 out of 5 stars July July
I had heard of O'Brien while working at a bookstore. After reading this book, I can say with certainty that I will never pick up another one of his books. Read more
Published on July 23 2003 by Groovy 1
5.0 out of 5 stars Age of Irony
Not one reviewer yet gave this book five stars, I am. That is not to suggest that it is a masterpiece or even O'Brien's best novel, rather, it is an excellent read, and to me, that... Read more
Published on June 8 2003 by bentmax
5.0 out of 5 stars Age of Irony
Not one reviewer yet gave this book five stars, I am. That is not to suggest that it is a masterpiece or even O'Brien's best novel, rather, it is an excellent read, and to me, that... Read more
Published on June 8 2003 by bentmax
4.0 out of 5 stars Really good, but not as good as The Things They Carried
Well, I know the NYT reviewed panned it and nobody is going to go around saying it's Tim O'Brien's best novel. Read more
Published on May 6 2003 by Peggy Vincent
3.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining, but nothing special
Compared to past Tim O'Brien books, this one certainly falls short of excellent. I recommend almost any of his others over this one. Read more
Published on March 7 2003 by Laurie
4.0 out of 5 stars Go Ask Alice
Tim O'Brien's "July July" is about how our dreams, hopes and memories are shattered once they take the inescapable road through reality, experience and just plain living. Read more
Published on Feb. 25 2003 by MICHAEL ACUNA
1.0 out of 5 stars Totally unrealistic
While there are always a few shallow and uncreative people who hold on to past grudges and longings with a vengeance, after thirty years most people, even average folks, get on... Read more
Published on Jan. 16 2003
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