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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful Delusion of a Generation
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...
Published on October 9, 2002 by Melissa Falocn

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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Did Tim get lazy?
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...
Published on March 26, 2005 by Casey Ransom


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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful Delusion of a Generation, October 9, 2002
By 
Melissa Falocn (San Francisco, CA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: July, July: A Novel (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
5.0 out of 5 stars FUNNY AND POIGNANT - GREAT READING!, October 19, 2002
This review is from: July, July: A Novel (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. Even with two husbands Spook Spinelli is still on the prowl and sets her failing sight on a tubby rich man with a weak heart.
Other riveting characters charm and disarm, while Johnny Ever, perhaps an angel, always hovers. He is there to {pick} consciences and remind, as O'Brien has said, "I'm not sure if Johnny is an angel or a devil or a voice of conscience or just a weird metaphysical middleman. But yes, Johnny is meant to lift the story out of time, to remind both the characters and the reader that human beings have gone through certain universal troubles and joys throughout history, and to remind us of those abiding mysteries and unknown that envelop all of human experience."
Tim O'Brien has crafted an incandescent novel penned with astounding insight and unforgettable power.
- Gail Cooke
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Did Tim get lazy?, March 26, 2005
This review is from: July, July (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
4.0 out of 5 stars Really good, but not as good as The Things They Carried, May 5, 2003
This review is from: July, July: A Novel (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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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A major disappointment, November 28, 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: July, July: A Novel (Hardcover)
A personal note on why I found the book so disappointing... Because I found The Things They Carried and In The Lake of The Woods to be devastatingly good, I looked forward to OBrien's latest submission with great anticipation. While the premise of the book would seem to play into the author's power alley, and there are indeed characteristic fragments of telling insight, for the most part I think July July is trite, disconnected, and without interest. The characters are truly forgettable. Taken as a whole, this odd cast would indict their generation as a group of pathetic losers, and this is a hard pill to swallow. In The Things They Carried, Obrien's "scene to scene" psycho-ramblings are held together to great effect by the well understood context of Vietnam. In In The Lake of the Woods, Obrien skillfully weaves diverse story lines around a tightly knit plot. July July suffers mightily from the lack of common context and integrating plot. Instead, the book jumps back and forth from one strange person or story to another, and the result for me was simply confusion. I wasn't sure who was who, but once I figured out what everybody was up to, I didn't care. I lost interest quickly. Don't go there.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Go Ask Alice, February 25, 2003
By 
MICHAEL ACUNA (Southern California United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: July, July: A Novel (Hardcover)
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.
It tells the story of the graduating class of 1969 of Darton Hall College in two time periods: both in 1969 and at their class reunion in 2000.
1969 was a year of discontent in America as the euphoria of "The Summer of Love, 1967" was fading and Vietnam was looming larger and larger in the country's collective mind. In just a couple of years we would also lose two of our pop icons: Jim Morrison and Janis Joplin. So the graduates of 1969 were less inclined to look to the future with unguarded hope for they would be going into a slightly smudged and tainted world: desperately clutching onto their dreams and cautiously, even warily walking toward their adulthood.
Even though for the bulk of the novel, O'Brien adopts a very straightforward, almost reporter-like style of prose, when he writes of one character, Spook Spinelli, who has two husbands, (!) he opens up with admiration and a kind of wonder: "They were intelligent, open-minded children of the sixties. There was almost no contention. Initially, to be sure, Lincoln had articulated some displeasure at Spook's desire for a second husband, yet he adored her and realized that the alternative was to lose a wife he cared for. Just as important, and much to his credit, Lincoln understood that relationships require fine-tuning, that Spook loved him no less, and that he wasn't losing a wife but gaining an in-law."
Tim O'Brien has written a novel and created characters that personify the regret of and the yearning for a time when their most difficult choice was whether to wear the red or the green Izod shirt,the brown or black shoes or who to call for Pizza. Then Life happens to them.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars What a disappointment!, December 15, 2002
By 
This review is from: July, July: A Novel (Hardcover)
I've heard a lot of great things about Tim O'Brien and read his stories in "The New Yorker," so I was pleased when my book club chose this novel. I have to try another of his books, however, because this can't be a good example of O'Brien's work. I found the premise of this book unrealistic and boring. A group of very different personalities is brought together at a 30th college reunion. They seem interested only in drinking a truly extraordinary amout of alcohol, ... putting long lost romances to bed (literally and figuratively!)and commiserating about their horrible lives. No one seems to have a spouse or kids they care about, fulfilling careers, or any interests whatsoever other than what happened 30 years before. I kept getting the characters confused, no doubt because I found it hard to care about any of them.
O'Brien is no doubt a fine writer--I read the chapter "Nogales" in the New Yorker several years ago and remember it vividly to this day. Same for "Too Skinny", the story of an obese man who sheds his weight and finds he can't live with the new person he has become. These chapters stand alone as riveting portraits of people whose lives have gone terribly wrong. But the "reunion" as a device to pull it together is forced, and the weight of so many messed up people in one place at one time is hard to take.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Age of Irony, June 8, 2003
By 
bentmax "bentmax" (San Francisco, CA USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: July, July: A Novel (Hardcover)
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 is sufficient to regard it in high esteem.
As every generation ages, it faces the irony, bitterness and self doubt over life's decisions. Few of us are spared looking in the bathroom mirror, at age 50, and wondering how we got to this point in our life and how different it might have been had we made choices other than the ones we made. Yet, few of us articulate those thoughts to anyone other than that image in the mirror.
O'Brien's sharply drawn characters articulate that self doubt for us. If you have ever been to a class reunion, you will recognize the sentiment, desolation, guilt and perpetual hope that burns in all our hearts and in the souls of those we grew up with. Funny that the Baby Boomer Generation that now runs the world has created an age of irony for itself. O'Brien hits the bulls-eye.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Who's to Blame: the Author or His Characters?, August 28, 2006
By 
T. Berner (New York, New York) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: July, July: A Novel (Hardcover)
As the old saying goes, Tim O'Brien has nothing to say, but he says it very well.

The setting is cliche'ed - the 30 year reunion of the Class of '69 full of stock characters left over from The Big Chill - but the author keeps the pace moving nicely with chapters alternating between the events of the reunion and flashbacks to the past.

The characters have a paint-by-numbers feel to them, however. During the reunion, many of them make major changes in their lives, but you know that they are just making the same mistakes that the earlier chapters led them through. The characters demonstrate no growth, no reexamination of their lives, no new insights. The result is a flat and depressing regurgitation of successful, but empty lives.

Maybe that is the point of the book: that the shallow Baby Boomers have no capacity for change, that they will wallow in their materialism full of good intentions and bad actions until the day they die.

Whether that is the theme of the book or a fault in its author, it makes for a depressing read.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Redeemed, October 8, 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: July, July: A Novel (Hardcover)
I loved the review from dannyj999, the 18-year-old, who suggested that 50-somethings might like this book more than he did. As an exact cohort of Tim O'Brien, I wondered myself as I read July, July, understanding every aspect of O'Brien's frame of reference, whether readers outside the Vietnam generation would find much of interest here. In the early going, the book filled me with desperation. Our generation suddenly seemed so old and irrelevant. Then again, what do you expect from a college reunion? But by the end O'Brien rescued several characters from the scrapheap, and left the reader -- this reader anyway -- with a needed sense of redemption. He's a master weaver by now, a terrific story-teller, full of dark humor.
I'm always curious about the place of the Vietnam War in O'Brien's novels. This one doesn't disappoint. As we stand on the brink of more warfare, July, July did give me a momentary chill as I pondered whether today's Cheneys and Powells were the McNamaras and Bundys of 1962.
Two thumbs up.
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July, July
July, July by Tim O'Brien (Paperback - September 30, 2003)
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