- Series: THE AMERICAS
- Paperback: 450 pages
- Publisher: University of Wisconsin Press; 1 edition (December 13, 2004)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0299196747
- ISBN-13: 978-0299196745
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 19 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,542,651 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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A World for Julius: A Novel (THE AMERICAS) Paperback – December 13, 2004
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"Like the best of Dickens’s novels, A World for Julius is a great, fat book that completely engages a reader with its characters and places—so completely that one reads with that often forgotten childhood pleasure of entering an all-encompassing, almost fairytale country of the imagination."—New York Times Book Review
From the Publisher
1992 paperback English-language edition, University of Texas Press
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We follow the life of Julius, a boy from an extremely wealthy family in 1950s Peru, from when he is a baby until just before his 11th birthday. We mostly see the world from his point of view, in a sort of rambling yet lucid third-person stream of consciousness, although there are passages from many other characters' viewpoints that move clearly and smoothly into one another. Julius's father dies when he is a baby and his "lovely" mother is, well, self-absorbed and vapid and apparently takes a lot of pills. Nevertheless, Julius has a full and emotionally rich world -- two admired older brothers, a sister to whom he is close, and a very colorful cast of servants, especially his nanny and the cook. He loves music and is talented; he also has a rich imaginative life and, once school starts, he excels at that too. He acquires a handsome stepfather whom his mother adores.
The arc of the book is the gradual implosion of Julius's world. No single huge event happens. It's the very banal encroachment of the crappy values of the larger world into his safe and happy world that gives the book its punch. A lot of the people who matter to Julius die or are fired for terrible reasons he has no way of comprehending. His parents are embarrassed by his talents and his failure to be tough and macho. The people who don't actually die seem to have their souls sucked out of them by this loveless, gaudy, superficial society: the last chapter, which focuses on his two spoiled, hyper-macho brothers, is very depressing. It is painful to watch Julius attempt to understand why bad things happen and whether the people they happen to are really good or not. Every signal he gets from his family is, basically, incredibly wrong. For a long time he sees more clearly in spite of them. This cannot, however, go on forever.
I've never read a book quite like this. One book it did remind me of is the very little-known but wonderful The Children of the House by Brian Fairfax-Lucy, which tells the story of four siblings growing up in an English country house with parents who care not at all for them, and servants who do. That book doesn't end well, either.
Anyway, if you are up for a long, slow, lovely and sad read, this is an excellent one.
Written with great control of style, with a lot of "stream of consciousness" and with the use of both the language of the beautiful people and the slang of the lower classes, the novel credibly conveys a portrait of the Peruvian high class and the miseries and small joys of the poor. All of this from the point of view of a smart, sensitive and sympathetic boy who basically grows up by himself, since his brothers are mostly absent, Juan Lucas despises him, and mommy is always partying or doing other things. In fact, Juan Lucas and Susan make up for one of the least sympathetic and most frivolous couples of literature and yet they are utterly credible and may very well remind you of people you actually know. I know I do. A great strength of the book, as noticed by another reviewer here, is that it has, thankfully, no political agenda. It is descriptive and avoids moralizing or patronizing about political issues. That's life. And for all of us who grew up in Latin America, especially, the books is a perfect portrait of our societies. Very good (and with a great sense of humor).
Most recent customer reviews
Julius is a young boy growing from childhood to the beginnings of adolescence in a Lima family of great inherited wealth and power.Read more