Julius Winsome

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Editorial Reviews

The New Yorker
The title character of this unsettling novel lives alone in the deep woods of Maine, home to men “who cannot live anywhere else.” Fifty-one and never married, Julius remains in the remote cabin where he grew up, with only the company of his dog, Hobbes, and thousands of books left him by his father. When Hobbes is shot at close range by a deer hunter, inchoate rage drives Julius out of his isolation to track down the killer. In past novels, Donovan has resorted to literary effects to make points about man’s capacity for violence; here he settles for the clean punch of language, which he delivers with devastating force. In prose laced with hard-edged Shakespeareanisms—“amort,” “blood-boltered,” “cullion”—he pursues the nature of human cruelty, the reason that “some men must create pain in others to feel less of it themselves.”
Publishers Weekly
Donovan's poetic, well-crafted third novel, like his debut, Schopenhauer's Telescope, shows how violence can infect and take over a person's life. Julius Winsome has retreated with his old dog, Hobbes, to a remote family cabin in the northern Maine woods. "Many men live in these woods who cannot live anywhere else," he tells us. "They live alone and are tuned close to any offense you might give them." Winsome has some physical skills (he's an excellent shot with his grandfather's WWI Enfield rifle), but mostly he spends the long winters reading from his father's library of 3,282 classic books neatly arranged around the cabin walls. Only once did a chance for love and companionship brush him; it will return to haunt him as his frightening and touching story unfolds. Winsome's descent into anger, sadness, perhaps madness, begins when a deer hunter deliberately kills Hobbes. From that moment, Winsome's need for revenge grows rapidly and irrationally. Readers will sympathize with him every step of the way. (Oct.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Donovan's acclaimed first novel, Schopenhauer's Telescope, explored thorny ethical issues related to wartime atrocities in Europe and humankind's capacity for cruelty. In his third novel, he returns to the subject of human frailty and malevolence, this time in small-town America. A dog has been shot at point-blank range in the woods of northern Maine. The dog's owner, a lifelong Maine resident and loner named Julius Winsome, recently lost both his father and his girlfriend, and this third unbearable loss tips him into madness and a pathological quest for vengeance. Winsome is a complex and powerfully realized fictional creation-a thoughtful, kind man driven to psychological disorder and violence by the casual cruelty of his neighbors. Donovan depicts his wounded humanity and psychological distress with great compassion and subtlety and vividly draws both the supporting characters and the bleak, foreboding Maine landscape. This novel of great emotional impact is enthusiastically recommended.-Patrick Sullivan, Manchester Community Coll., CT Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Man loses man's best friend, decides the rest of humanity is to blame. Donovan's first novel, Schopenhauer's Telescope (2003), tried, with rather pallid results, to turn philosophical concepts into allegorical fiction. His second is similarly thoughtful, but an entirely different sort of text: slim where its predecessor was bloated, deeply personal rather than vague and abstract. Narrator Julius is a self-sufficient type living alone in a cabin in the woods of Maine. "I had never married, though I think I came near once," he tells us, "and so even the silences here were mine." In the cabin, he's surrounded by the thousands of books collected by his father, as well as ghostly memories of the dead man, a war veteran haunted by his murderous conscience. Julius needs little to get by; some part-time work in the warmer months is sufficient. Otherwise, he's content to drink tea, read Shakespeare, pet his beloved dog Hobbes and listen to the gunfire from hunters galumphing through the woods. But that all changes when he finds Hobbes dying from a shotgun blast. Studying the wound, the veterinarian tells Julius that whoever shot Hobbes came up close and probably patted him before firing the fatal shot. In the same eerily calm manner he would use to describe cutting wood, Julius then relates his walks into the forest with his grandfather's WWI-issue Enfield sniper rifle and starts killing hunters. Donovan's command of language is astonishingly precise, eerily reflecting Julius's disarmingly mild-mannered pathology as it ascribes no more importance to the cold-blooded shooting of a hunter than to going into town for groceries. Finely tooled outsider fiction, as chilling as it is ultimately humane.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781585678495
  • Publisher: Overlook
  • Publication date: 10/19/2006
  • Pages: 224
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 0.80 (d)

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 8, 2008

    darkly haunting

    Love and revenge. A strange and unusual story that I couldn't put down. Love between man and woman, man and dog, right and wrong. If you like books that haunt you this is one.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 24, 2007

    Beautiful, But Unsettling

    Gerard Donovan is a poet and it shows on every page of this short novel. Literate prose in brief chapters reveal the history of a lonely man and how he responds to the cruelty of others. Julius Winsome leads an isolated existence in a bleak wilderness in the north Maine woods, just across the river from New Brunswick. Since the death of his father two decades before he has lived alone in a book-filled cabin miles from his nearest neighbor. In summer he ekes out just enough income as a part-time gardener and mechanic to get him through a winter of reading. His 3,282 books isolate him from winter and the world just as in summer a flower garden separates him from the woods and the woods from people. One day a woman walks out of the woods and into his life. He begins to see a new, brighter version of life. She convinces him he should get a dog because a man should not live alone, as he does, in the woods. Shortly after that, without explanation, the woman walks out of his life and he doesn¿t see her again until after his life is shattered anew and they are both different people. Winsome transfers his affection to the dog and the love is reciprocated and he is, again, satisfied with his life for four years. Then, the dog is purposely shot and killed, shattering his serenity. As he seeks answers to who and why his dog was killed, he finds only more cruelty and it turns him on an unrelenting path of revenge which can have only one outcome. It¿s a beautiful and haunting novel but, equally, unsettling. Even as we sympathize with his pain and his need for vengeance we must realize just how brittle the line between sane and insane, civilized and uncivilized.

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