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Centuries of June: A Novel Hardcover – Deckle Edge, May 31, 2011

3.7 out of 5 stars 21 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Face down on the bathroom floor after "a conk on the skull," Jack, the narrator of Donohue's unconventional latest (after Angels of Destruction), embarks on an epic and darkly funny journey through time and space without traveling much beyond his own bathroom. Visited by seven ghostly women, and eventually his wife, Jack stands in for disappointing men throughout history as each of the phantom visitors tells him her life story. From Dolly, the Tlingit woman who marries a shape-shifting bear, to Alice, who winds up on the wrong end of the Salem witch trials, and Bunny, a New York City housewife whose search for love goes very wrong, the women each accuse Jack, tell their story, and then fade into a chorus with the others. When Jack finally hears out his own wife, the reason for the night's events—including stopped clocks, talking cats, and what could be the ghost of Samuel Beckett—becomes clear. Donohue's faultless eye for character and keen sense of humor keeps what could easily become a muddled mess pristine, with members of his quorum shining individually but also acting as cogs in the larger story's machinery. There are moments when the reader is left to wonder how things can possibly come together, but it's worthwhile to trust Donohue's narrators as they lead this puzzling and greatly satisfying trip. (May)
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Review

"Part ghost story, part psychological mystery and part vaudeville show. Think Scheherazade by way of “Tristram Shandy” by way of “The Sixth Sense.”—Washington Post

"A tour de force in its mastery of styles, the book also has moments of high silliness—though toward the end Donohue weaves the threads of plot together in a surprising and affecting way."—Kirkus Reviews

"Donohue's faultless eye for character and keen sense of humor keeps what could easily become a muddled mess pristine, with members of his quorum shining individually but also acting as cogs in the larger story's machinery. There are moments when the reader is left to wonder how things can possibly come together, but it's worthwhile to trust Donohue's narrators as they lead this puzzling and greatly satisfying trip."—Publishers Weekly

“Donohue’s polished prose holds the story together and offers a more than satisfying ending.”—Booklist

“VERDICT: Donohue’s tour de force blends aspects of time travel and reincarnation genres into a witty whole. With a touch of David Mitchell and Audrey Niffenegger, but a witty style uniquely the author’s own, this novel about a clueless man, who may in some future life get it right, is a pleasure to read.”—Library Journal

“[T]he product here is uniquely Donohue, and the craft seamless in the spinning of an absorbing skein of yarns in a marvelous display of voice weaving together to form a single tapestry: a “parti-colored utterance” (to quote Annie Dillard) unfolding about love, mortality, men and women, memory, family, and the fundamental force of storytelling.” —Buffalo News

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Crown; First Edition edition (May 31, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307450287
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307450289
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 1.2 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,352,237 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Keith Donohue's third book follows his highly praised novels THE STOLEN CHILD and ANGELS OF DESTRUCTION. Like its predecessors, CENTURIES OF JUNE is nearly impossible to categorize. It reads like the finest literary fiction, but at the center is a mix of fantasy, mythology and dream-like sequences that always keep the reader guessing and intrigued.

CENTURIES OF JUNE takes place almost exclusively in the bathroom of a man named Jack, who is not having a good day. He wakes up from the floor of his bathroom to find his upper half covered in blood. Upon further inspection, he discovers a nice-sized hole in the back of his head --- most likely the result of tripping over his often underfoot cat, Harpo, and striking his head on the sink or bathtub.

Jack immediately experiences a few odd occurrences. First off, Harpo can talk (quite ironic since he was named after the "mute" Marx Brother star). There is also an appearance by an older gentleman who looks like Jack's late father. Later on, this same man begins to resemble the author Samuel Beckett --- or maybe it's actually Jack's older brother? These are just a few of the mind games that Donohue has in store for his readers.

Soon after awakening, Jack reflects, "Today was an ordinary day in June, the kind that seems to exist permanently, coming each year for centuries." He also recognizes that when he arrived at his home earlier that day, he found seven bicycles strewn about his front lawn and glowing in the sunshine like mirrors to the sky. Jack's father points out that he noticed there were eight sets of feet in Jack's bed. Before Jack can investigate this statement further, one of the strange women enters the bathroom.

The first is named Dolly, and she appears to be a Native American.
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By C. J. L. on December 29, 2011
Format: Hardcover
After reading so many positive reviews, I found this book disappointing. Yes, Donohue writes vivid prose. Yes, it's a very unique and unusual plot. My praise stops there. The bulk of the novel consists of separate, unrelated stories that are forced into a larger frame that doesn't really fit. The stories are disjointed and the supposed thematic connection is weak. We're told they're about love and betrayal, but despite a parade of characters I can't think of an example of meaningful love. There's a good smattering of sex, beautiful women, nudity, and violence. Perhaps that's the connecting theme? It's laughable that Donohue considers himself a feminist writer. The women are first objectified in their stories and then objectified again in this alternate world as they retell the tales. I kept thinking all these tedious stories must be working towards some greater meaning, but the moment of revelation is anticlimactic. Both the author and the narrator purposefully withhold logical information to create a strange kind of suspense. The narrator of the story is in a haze and comes in and out of consciousness, dimensions, realities. Admittedly, this is not my genre of choice. The element of fantasy creates some humor and whimsy, but the lack of coherence seems lazy. It's not hard to create mystery when the narrator has a selective memory and readers are deliberately confused. Things make more sense in the end, but even then there are plenty of loose ends. I think most readers will assume the relationship between the narrator and the women, so when the narrator magically remembers it himself, it's not exactly a breakthrough. The premise is interesting, but ultimately feels like a gimmick to throw eight stories together and call it a novel. I would be more forgiving if there was a satisfying message to it all, but this ended up being a waste of time.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Having been thoroughly captivated by his first two books, which take us deeply into the realm of childhood, I could tell from one look at the cover that this one was going to be different. It is different indeed, and for me it is his even more impressive than his other efforts.

Those with no tolerance for the strange and fanciful will want to avoid this book, though they will be missing out on a marvelous experience. Centuries of June contains stories told by eight women, from pre-Columbian times to the present, who suffered because of men, all but the last of whom bear a mysterious relation to the narrator, who awakens to some highly unusual goings on after sustaining a blow to the head in his bathroom. The sometimes wild action that surrounds the telling of engaging historical yarns all takes place in the bathroom and other rooms of an ordinary suburban house.

There are moments when the fast unfolding events of this novel may seem wild, inexplicable, and strange. But just hang on for the ride and you will be rewarded in the end. In fact, you will be rewarded all along the way, and after the wonderfully moving ending in which the loose ends come together, you will be ready to reread and admire the novel's remarkable structure.
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Format: Kindle Edition
This has got to be one of the strangest books I have ever read. Nonetheless, it is very addictive. It opens with "Jack" watching his blood flow onto the bathroom tiles. He's hit his head with half of his naked body in the bathroom and half in the hallway. He momentarily thinks how regretful he would be if someone found him in his current situation. His pain ebbs and that is when his departed father appears sitting on the edge of the bathtub.

Jack immediately feels better and is able to stand. He puts on a robe and goes to fetch his dad a shot of whiskey. But on his return to the bathroom, with the whiskey, he pauses at his bedroom and peeks in. Eight naked women are sleeping in his bed. But then one of the women appear behind him in the bathroom, and proceeds to tell him her life story. And the stories continue as each woman appears in the bathroom. Each woman is from a different point in time and some of them are mythical. But what of Jack? Will he wake up? Who hit him on the head? Why?

Centuries of June is a unique tale that will keep the reader entranced. Crude language and sexual situations are intermixed sporadically, but humor outshines it. The talking cat, Harpo, lightens any situation the protagonist finds himself in. The character building is unique and I can honestly say that Keith Donohue has one powerful imagination. The worlds he builds for each woman is detailed and easily imagined. A compelling novel sure to entertain!
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