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July, July Paperback – September 30, 2003

3.7 out of 5 stars 57 customer reviews

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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 (57 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,775,845 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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By A Customer on November 28, 2002
Format: 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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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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