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Portrait of Julia: A Novel Hardcover – Sep 18 2013
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"Elegant and absorbing! In the chaotic aftermath of a world war, the beautiful Julia's globe-trotting quest to rebuild her life and capture enduring love brings a stunning surprise. Robert MacNeil's depth of wisdom shines through." (Lloyd Robertson, CTV News)
"MacNeil skilfully blends tension by switching the narrative between Julia's present and recent past, to reveal, slowly and tantalizingly, why she ran from Neville and what she plans to do next. . . . Portrait of Julia is an insightful look at a fascinating period in Halifax's history." (Halifax Chronicle-Herald 2013-11-22)
"Julia possesses the sensitivities, if not the talent, of an artist, and embodies her own time in history... MacNeil creates a period that, in diction and nuance, evokes the world before and following the First World War, with a story that reaches from Halifax to the French Riviera." (Atlantic Books Today 2013-11-01)
"an excellent book." (Charlottetown Guardian 2014-02-08)
About the Author
Born in Montreal, Robert MacNeil grew up in Halifax, attended Dalhousie University and graduated from Carleton in Ottawa. After early work as a CBC announcer, he was a journalist for forty years with Reuters News Agency, NBC News and the BBC, culminating in twenty years as Executive Editor of the MacNeil-Lehrer NewsHour on PBS. His bestselling novel, Burden of Desire, won rave reviews in Canada and the U.S. He is also the author of two other novels, The Voyage and Breaking News; three memoirs, The Right Place at the Right Time, Wordstruck, and Looking For My Country; and co-author of The Story of English and its sequel, Do You Speak American? He divides his time between New York and Nova Scotia.
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Much as Julia enjoys Stewart's company and the times they have spent together since becoming acquainted in the aftermath of the tragic Halifax Explosion, which devastated a significant part of the city in December 1917, she does not feel what she would consider as love for him. Their relationship, which on the surface is platonic, has also had its hotly passionate moments, which both have taken pains to keep discreet from family and friends. Their relationship undergoes a subtle change when Julia receives in the spring a letter from a British naval officer (Neville Boiscoyne) she had briefly met at a party several weeks after learning of her husband's death. Neville, acting as equerry to the Prince of Wales, would be returning to Canada that August (1919) as part of a tour the Prince was making to various parts of the Empire. Julia finds herself thrilled at the thought of seeing Neville again and becoming better acquainted. There was, she had to admit to herself, a warm and magnetic attraction she felt that also stirred deep, sexual yearnings for him. (And Neville felt the same way about Julia.)
From time to the time, MacNeil has shifts in time and place to illustrate certain crucial experiences in Julia's life that cause her to make some major life changes. These shifts sometimes take place within a chapter or across different chapters. For instance, there are scenes between Julia and her former sister-in-law Lucy that are really endearing, because from their dialogue, it becomes abundantly clear how well they get along with each other and freely share confidences. (Lucy's husband Harry, in contrast to Julia's, rose to high rank during the war and survived combat without a scratch. His record was so outstanding that he was appointed as an aide to the Canadian Prime Minister during the Paris Peace Conference. Indeed, it was Harry who was able to wrangle invitations for Lucy, Julia, Stewart, the local Anglican priest Peter Wentworth (with whom Julia had an unwanted and embarrassing encounter in "Burden of Desire) and his wife Margery (who craves to be the center of attention) to have dinner with the Prince and Neville aboard the ship HMS Renown.) There are also scenes of the subsequent journey Julia makes to Britain (where she meets Neville's family) and France (where she renews her acquaintance with the painter J.W. Morrice --- a real-life Canadian painter of some distinction living on the Côte d'Azur --- for whom she poses for a painting early in 1920).
There are also a lot of "juicy bits" and surprises that take place in the novel. In fact, the ending came as a complete surprise to me. But I leave it to you, reader of this review, to read "PORTRAIT OF JULIA" for yourself, so that you can savor and enjoy this richly nuanced novel. [However if you're really keen on knowing the particulars about Julia Robertson, read "BURDEN OF DESIRE" first.]
negatively but...... However, I read very little fiction so I am not a good
judge of literature.