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July, July Paperback – September 30, 2003

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Editorial Reviews

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 an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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 an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reissue edition (September 30, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0142003387
  • ISBN-13: 978-0142003381
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 7.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (56 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #836,318 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

TIM O'BRIEN received the 1979 National Book Award in fiction for Going After Cacciato. His other works include the acclaimed novels The Things They Carried and July, July. In the Lake of the Woods received the James Fenimore Cooper Prize from the Society of American Historians and was named the best novel of 1994 by Time. O'Brien lives in Austin, Texas.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Melissa Falocn on October 9, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Tim O'Brien has done it again! In July, July, O'Brien creates a beautiful range of voices and lives, trapped by their own passions, hopes and the delusions of a generation, whose youth has run itself, nearly, out of gas. At a high school reunion, we see O'Brien's characters dance under cardboard stars in an awkward celebration of times past. The reunion of old friends serves as a catalyst for reliving the year of their college graduation: 1969. The narrative fluxes between present time stories and the tales of old hopes, dreams, loves and lives of these ripened graduates. In the novel, O'Brien's characters (some of whom, like Spoke Spenelli, remain as sassy and sexy as ever, while others find themselves victims of divorce, broken hearts, or a lost leg to the Vietnam War) are as real as each of us, as they explore who they were and who they have become. In July, July the reader finds herself out on their dance floor, amongst the crowd, dancing along with nostalgia. By brilliantly weaving the experiences of these characters lives, O'Brien creates a chorus for a generation who drowned themselves in the sea of cul-de-sacs, housing developments, golf courses and other landmarks of suburban culture. There is no book that better exemplifies the dreams of a generation, so proud and young and hopeful, who lost its innocence to a time of war. This book has moments of pure hilarity and heart wrenching sadness. It is a reflection of another "coming of age," middle age, that leaves the reader walking away with her own reflections on who she is and who she thought she would become. O'Brien is masterful in his prose. In July, July the cast of characters develop a plotline that wraps each of their lives around your very own. An amazing feat. My highest recommendation.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Gail Cooke HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 19, 2002
Format: Hardcover
When Tim O'Brien postponed graduate work at Harvard to serve in Vietnam, surely, he had no idea that he would one day become America's preeminent chronicler of those war years and garner a National Book Award. His prose is both brilliant and courageous.
With the funny and poignant "July, July" O'Brien returns to the era that so shapes his writing, but this time rather than focusing on the soldiers he spotlights those who were left behind.
When asked about his emphasis on female characters in his latest work, the author replied, "....in part it was a technical challenge, to prove to myself that I could do it, that as a writer I could portray convincing, detailed, intelligent, compelling women. More important, it seemed to me that most of the fiction set in the watershed era of the late 1960s focuses on stories about men - the pressures of war, draft-dodging, and so on. But for every man who went to Vietnam, or for every man who went to Canada, there were countless sisters and girlfriends and wives and mothers, each of whom had her own fascinating story, her own tragedies and suffering, her own healing afterward....."
With "July, July" we meet many of these women at the thirtieth reunion of Minnesota's Darton Hall College class of 1969. Ten old friends meet again for a weekend in July to reminisce, drink, and rue what might have been Much has happened in the past three decades; , careers have flourished and floundered, children have been born, and marriages made in heaven have ended in hell. It seems fitting that Jan Huebner and Amy Robinson toast their exes with vodka and hope for better days.
Dorothy Stier, a wealthy Reagan Republican is recovering from a radical mastectomy and her 30-year-old decision to let draft dodger Billy McMann wend his way to Winnipeg alone.
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Casey Ransom on March 26, 2005
Format: Paperback
First, let me say I wanted to love this book. The first O'brien book I read was The Things They Carried, a masterpeice. I suggest to all who were turned off by July July to please read this before writing him off. He has enormous talent, but this book didn't show any of it. The characters are barely credible. The setting of the reunion seems as if the characters dropped into a twilight zone scenario: they can and do haunt the Darton Hall campus in the wee hours, no buildings are locked, no security guards are ushering them out of the door, as if the campus is a ghost town, a mere prop waitng empty for thirty years instead of a real place with a whole new set of students. The dialogue of most characters not only sounds the same, but has the same style in that many scenes end with a character emitting what is meant to be a clever quip. On a more positive note, the sub-tales are mostly quite good, such as David Todd's tale in 'nam (I loved Johnny Ever, the most interesting character in the book), the tale of the lover who drowns (reminded me of a story by Richard Ford), and most of all Marv's tale.

Tim, if you are reading this don't be discouraged. I know you have some better stuff in you. Maybe you got a little lazy or contrived on this one. Best of luck on your next effort.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Peggy Vincent on May 5, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Well, I know the NYT reviewed panned it and nobody is going to go around saying it's Tim O'Brien's best novel. I mean, after he wrote The Things They Carried and In the Lake of the Woods, it must be tough for the poor guy to compete with himself.
But if he hadn't written those books, if this was the first thing he'd written, I'd have given it 5 stars.
July, July has a big cast of characters, a group of college graduates returning for their 30th reunion, and the characters intermix and mingle as people will during a reunion weekend, making it sometimes difficult to keep track of who's who.
Inserting pivotal tales from Julys past, O'Brien give us wonderful explorations of universal themes in this daring novel: hope, love, disappointment, despair, and of course the Vietnam War.
A couple of chapters from July, July appeared as separate short stories in The New Yorker, and they work well in that way, especially the bittersweet and tragically funny story of Dorothy confronting her husband's discomfort regarding her mastectomy by getting plastered and walking topless toward him down the driveway. The reaction of her elderly next-door neighbor is masterful. Utterly priceless.
The book is a testament to the entire generation of us who grew up in the long shadow of Vietnam.
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