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July, July Paperback – Sep 30 2003


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reissue edition (Sept. 30 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0142003387
  • ISBN-13: 978-0142003381
  • Product Dimensions: 13.3 x 1.5 x 20.1 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 204 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,128,033 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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

3.7 out of 5 stars

Most helpful customer reviews

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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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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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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Format: Paperback
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 generation. However, for someone that lived the wasted dreams and years of a nation embroiled in the turmoil of the late sixties, O'Brien captured the essence of what transpired the next thirty years for the members of that 1969 graduating class. My college years, 1966-70 were a myriad of hopes, dreams and promises always shadowed by the horror, waste, and questionable necessity of the Vietnam War. Personal decicions and choices that anyone made during this time, whether in college or being drafted, were always made with the lingering influence of the War. Sometimes, these choices weren't what we wanted, and their outcome would haunt members of our generation for years into their personal lives, careers, and beliefs.
O'Brien took me back to a time and place that I had hoped to remember, but not to feel. Unfortunately, his story put me back in college and the demons returned. His book is not just a story or characters, but it truly captures the essence of those bitter, frustrating times. For readers not old to remember, you should be thankful and certainly happy not to have expereinced those emotions. For anyone who lived those bitter years, the faded thoughts, yearnings, and desires will bubble to the surface. They did for me, so read with care.
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