J.M. Cornwell's Reviews > Centuries of June

Centuries of June by Keith Donohue
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Sep 03, 11

Read in August, 2011

Good clear writing, confusing plot.

It is the middle of the night and Harry finds himself on the bathroom floor with a hole in the back of his head. When he gets up off the floor, he faces an old man who seems very familiar and yet he cannot place how he knows the old man. One good thing about the old man is that he keeps a Tlingit woman from bashing in Harry's skull. In order to explain why, Yeikoo.shk tells a story about her husband, a man who could transform into a bear.

Although Harry cannot understand why his watch, why all the clocks in his house, have stopped at the same time, he has more trouble understanding why the old man and the women, each of whom tries to hit him in the head with some lethal object, are in his bathroom.

Harry thought the seven bicycles on his lawn when he arrived home that day was strange, as were the eight women in his bed, but seven women intent on killing him and then telling their stories in his bathroom is the first volley of strange. There is so much more to come.

It is hard to decide what to make of Keith Donohue intends with his latest novel. While it is entertaining, Centuries of June is also confusing. Is the novel a psychological thriller, a whodunit, or a story about the way men hurt and disappoint women through the ages? There is really no way to tell. To add more confusion, what is the old man’s purpose and why is he so interested in Harry’s tale of the seven bicycles or in keeping Harry from being smashed in the head?

While the motive of the story remains hidden, one thing is obvious—Donohue knows how to write an engrossing tale. In this case, he pens nine engrossing tales. Each of the women is a complete individual and engaging in her own homicidal way, not that they do not have issue with men, and obviously with Harry. I was as confused as I was enchanted and enthralled by Donohue’s tales, and therein lies part of the problem.

The writing is excellent, an effortless and easy read with a dark heart—seven dark hearts—and Harry’s situation completely draws the reader in. The payoff comes at the end of the novel with one last story, another tale set in June in a woman’s life, a woman who was part of the tangle of bodies on Harry’s beds and she knows Harry intimately. Centuries of June is an elaborately wrapped package with a marvelous Easter egg at the center of a complex knot of emotions and motives and regret, and it is well worth reading.
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