Losing Julia

Losing Julia

4.7 45
by Jonathan Hull

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An epic story of love found and lost, Losing Julia begins in 1928 at the dedication of a memorial to the great War in France. American Patrick Delaney has come to mourn his fallen comrades, especially his best friend, Daniel. When he sees a woman standing alone in the crowd, he realizes she must be Julia, Daniel's lover. Though Patrick is married, he and Julia fall


An epic story of love found and lost, Losing Julia begins in 1928 at the dedication of a memorial to the great War in France. American Patrick Delaney has come to mourn his fallen comrades, especially his best friend, Daniel. When he sees a woman standing alone in the crowd, he realizes she must be Julia, Daniel's lover. Though Patrick is married, he and Julia fall desperately in love during the brief but unforgettable time they spend exploring the still haunted and battle-scarred countryside. Struggling to reconcile their love with the legacy of war and life's obligations, Julia and Patrick cling to each other until one fateful step, when Patrick loses Julia, perhaps never to find her again.

From the vicious savagery of trench warfare to the sometimes comic and often tragic indignities of life in a nursing home, Jonathan Hull tells a remarkable story of memory and desire, history and destiny-and of the people who slip from our grasp, only to hold us forever.

Editorial Reviews

An evocative, bittersweet novel...Hull powerfully recreates the horrors and the heroism of war.
Denver Rocky Mtn. News
Haunting...[with] immense depth and poignancy...not easily put down and even less easily forgotten.
Chicago Tribune
War buffs and saps for perfect love will read this book with equal pleasure...Hull evokes the era as movingly as Sebastian Faulks in Birdsong or Patricia Barker in the "Regeneration" trilogy.
Washington Post
Remarkable freshness...consistently readable.
Denver Post
Superb...an elegant and touching meditation on love, particularly lost love, and the ravages of war.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In a nursing home in California, WWI vet Patrick Delaney is fighting new battles: against old age (he's 81), stomach cancer and the knowledge of his encroaching death. This earnest, elegant first novel takes the form of Patrick's diary, in which he details the humbling infirmities of an aging body and looks back at the defining moments of his life--the war itself, when he lost his best friend, Daniel, and the brief but intense love affair he had 10 years later with Daniel's grieving lover, Julia. The diary layers these two stories with scenes from the nursing home in short alternating sections. Like the dots in a pointillist painting, they merge into the larger work, a story of love and death. "Our lives--all our lives--are a struggle between love and loss," Julia tells Patrick in Paris, where their affair unfolds over one week in 1928. Hull is ultimately better at depicting war than--Patrick's memories of Julia are tinged with romantic cliche: her eyes are like "precious stone" and her smile suggests a "combination of strength and vulnerability." But his descriptions of the war are frightening and physical, with dirt dislodged by artillery shells filling Patrick's mouth and flares illuminating severed body parts in the trenches. Hull's research is assiduous; he seamlessly incorporates period detail, referencing the toiletries the enlistees received in their trench kits and how the weather affected the roads at the Battle of Verdun. Equally honest and effective are the unsparing descriptions of the loneliness, physical decrepitude and indignities of old age. Patrick is a winning narrator, charming and honest and direct, and the reader will root for him right through the book's Hollywood ending, where he makes one last stand against death, his final enemy. Major ad/promo; author tour. (Feb.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
The nightmare of World War I, a brief interlude in Paris, losing friends and family, winding up in a nursing home with a failing body and a million memories: Patrick Delaney is the central character in this story of a man's life told in three time periods. The narrative moves smoothly from the end of Delaney's life back through his war experience in the trenches in France forward through a short time in Paris in the late 1920s where he meets the beautiful girlfriend of his dead army buddy, Daniel. Julia and Patrick find love, which becomes more intense and romantic by the complications of Patrick's wife and child. The cycles of war, love, loss, and death in a lifetime are nothing new. Yet the tale is so beautifully woven and the nostalgia so deep and true that the listener is captivated. Actor Ralph Waite's voice is perfect--gravelly and poignant and full of expression as Patrick in three stages of life. Public libraries will want this.--Barbara Valle, El Paso P.L., TX Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.\

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Dancing Muse Press
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6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.81(d)

Read an Excerpt

I was glad that it rained. Not just a drizzle but big furious drops that lashed against us and danced at our feet. Our discomfort seemed somehow appropriate, all of us standing there with tears and rain washing down our taut faces, overcome by so many names. The clouds were just right too, dark and solemn as they marched slowly past, heavy with grief. But what got me most were the birds, dozens of them in every tree, loud and insistent. I remember listening and thinking how familiar they sounded, so that I couldn't close my eyes for more than a moment without tumbling back.

It was my first trip back to France. I had taken a train from Paris to Reims, where I rented a car and drove five hours, getting lost twice. Charlotte stayed in Paris with our son Sean, who was three then, and her sister Margaret, who had traveled with us from the States. I knew Charlotte wouldn't join me for the service; she had no tolerance for battlefields or military reunions and rarely asked about my experiences at the front. I didn't blame her though, and I was glad that she didn't complain when I told her that I'd be gone for six days.

I never did come back. Not completely.

That was in 1928, a time when thousands of memorials were still being erected across France and Belgium: great big arches engraved with row upon row of names; small plaques and crosses in little fenced-in plots; solitary obelisks and statues in village squares; every one of them attended by mothers and fathers and wives and lovers who still remembered; vividly.

Page and a few others were there, dressed in their old uniforms, subtly altered. I didn't bring mine. Charlotte said I looked foolish when I tried it on, but that's not why I left it. Standing in front of the mirror and looking at myself, I decided I didn't want to see myself that way anymore. Not ever again.

"It feels sort of strange to be here, doesn't it?" said Page, lighting his third cigarette in a row and cupping it in his hand to protect it from the rain. I thought he looked much older than his age and wondered how many years a war takes off a man. "I wasn't sure if I should come."

"Glad you did," I said.

"Makes me sad, thinking of the guys."

I nodded.

"At least this time we get to see France."

"Yes, at least we can do that."

I proposed that we meet in Paris on that Friday for a night out but he was leaving the next morning on a family vacation. Just in case, I gave him the name of the hotel where Charlotte and I were staying and told him to call, though I didn't think he would.

The monument itself, a long granite rectangle four feet high, was draped in a white cloth. Nearby, two small tables were covered with food provided by a local committee of mostly overweight French women, who smiled incessantly and kissed our cheeks with great delight. After a few speeches the cloth was removed and a wreath placed at the base. During a moment of silence I closed my eyes tight and let the birds take me. When I opened my eyes I saw her.

I knew right away, though I'd never seen her before. All the long nights listening to Daniel describe her; straining to see her face as he read her letters out loud, his voice mixing with the muffled cough of distant artillery.

I stood up on my toes to get a better look at her, craning my neck above the small crowd. She stood farther back than anyone; I think she might have arrived late. I couldn't catch her eye but I could see her profile clearly. A little taller than I had imagined; darker hair, partially hidden beneath a scarf.

When the ceremony ended, she walked slowly over to the monument and rested both hands on it, as though praying. Then she leaned forward and searched through the names.

I stood immobile, watching. It had to be her. Julia. The woman Daniel had planned to marry. The mother of the child he never lived to meet. I remembered Daniel telling me how he felt the first time he saw her; how he just knew. I watched as she slowly ran her fingers along the granite, stopping at Daniel's name, then carefully tracing each letter. I looked at her slender hands and her narrow shoulders and the side of her face and her dark brown hair and the way she tilted her head slightly, as though adjusting to the sight of Daniel's name in stone.

Finally I approached her.


She turned quickly and I saw those bright green eyes, and even in her sadness they were smiling, just like Daniel described them.

So it was her. And how perfect she looked, more perfect than I had imagined, with the kind of face that you instinctively want to touch and kiss and gaze at for hours. Even now as I recall her features: her sharp jawline, her small nose and pronounced cheekbones -- what I remember most is the searing sensation of looking into her eyes for the first time, eyes that would haunt me for the rest of my life.

"I'm sorry, I should introduce myself. I'm-"

"But wait, I know who you are."

"You do?"

"Patrick. Patrick ... Delaney. Am I right?"

"Yes, but how did you know?"

"I've heard a lot about you, from Daniel's letters." She offered me her hand. "I'm glad to meet you. I never expected..."

"I didn't either."

The rain started to come down faster and soon people were hurrying to their cars. I saw Page wave at me as he struggled with an umbrella.

"You're wet. Should we go?" I asked, wishing I had an umbrella to offer her.

"I don't mind it," she said. I watched a drop of rain run slowly down her cheek, hesitating at the corner of her mouth. I struggled not to stare.

She wasn't glamorous. There was even a certain plainness to her appearance -- no fashionable bob or plucked eyebrows -- but that's what made her so appealing. Her warm, soft features were strikingly natural, as though she'd look the same whether just getting out of bed or going out to dinner. Meanwhile, her shy smile and flashing eyes -- what life they held! -- suggested an interesting combination of strength and vulnerability. When I caught myself staring, I forced my gaze away.


I'm still not sure. Not completely. Too many holes. But I keep asking the same question, asking over and over until I am limp with exhaustion. And I always come back to that first day I met her; to that face looking up at me with those sad beautiful eyes and those trembling lips and that soft struggling voice.

I always come back to Julia.

I can still see her clearly, even with these fading eyes of mine. Not for much longer though. You see, I am eighty-one now and everything hurts, sometimes all at once. Feet, knees, hips, lower back, stomach, head. One false step and smash, old man Delaney will splinter into a thousand pieces of brittle bone on cold cement. Then pneumonia and slow suffocation with concerned faces staring down at me like I'm laid out under glass; thick, heavy glass pressing against my wheezing chest. And finally, a forced retreat through drug-induced mists with voices calling fainter and fainter and me unable to scream until Patrick Delaney, loving father of two children, three grandchildren and three great-grandchildren; failed husband to one failed marriage (long long ago and mostly my fault); lover of many (but not nearly enough, which causes me tremendous grief); fiercely loyal friend to a few (all dead now but one, who can barely hear); disappears with a last shallow and putrid exhale.


I've planned the funeral. Nothing starchy or pompous. Just a few words of comfort to mislead the survivors (no use dwelling on what's in store for them), a few of may favorite songs -- If Ever Would I Leave You, There's a Place for Us, "Shenandoah"; I keep a list -- and an absolute ban on holy pabulum, since I don't believe a bit of it anyway. My ashes are to be discreetly scattered in the vineyards of Napa Valley -- a deep, velvety cabernet, I've requested -- giving me one last shot at the lips of an appreciative woman. The instructions, handwritten on two pages, are in an envelope in the top drawer of my bed stand. Waiting.

So am I, though with scant enthusiasm. The fact that I still floss is simply my way of saying, "Up yours, Lord; you can destroy my spirit but not my gums." Not yet.

Strange how we labor all our lives to preserve our teeth -- the one body part most likely to reemerge a few million years later from beneath the sands of the East African Rift, our incisors the subject of award-winning documentaries. I look at my teeth and remember how, as a boy, the whine of the dentist drill and the sickly taste of enamel so rudely challenged my adolescent sense of immortality. Head back and mouth open in an animallike snarl, I squeezed the hand rests and struggled not to cry.

Where are you, boy? I stare into the wood-framed mirror just above the small oak dresser in my room, searching. Some days I catch just a glimpse of him in the corner of my eyes, a small and frightened youth now buried beneath the rubble. Come back here, boy!

Sometimes I see him in my hands, now gnarled and splotchy but still, unmistakably, his hands too. I see them fumble with a ball, work a mitt, dig in the sand for hours. He's a kind boy, shy and uncertain yet full of yearning. Baby fat still hides the knuckles. He runs with the awkward gait of a newborn colt. Always running. Come back!

Other days the hands look older and filthy dirty with broken nails and lacerations and I see them tremble as they grip a rifle. The noise is tremendous and I want to warn him but I can't and I watch as he scrambles up the dirt with those hands clawing to the top and he staggers to his feet and runs, running madly until he disappears into smoke and horror. Careful!

And me? Ha! I look like I'm 120, give or take. A small ember from a once-roaring fire. The older I get, the more out of place I feel, like a weekend guest still loitering around the cottage on Sunday night because he's got no place else to go. How awkward, to feel a burden. Better to pack my things and move on. But please, before I go, isn't there supposed to be some sort of resolution? A denouement before the final curtain? Redemption? Atonement? Extreme unction, perhaps? I feel none. Just loose ends that snap and crackle like downed electrical lines.

Some mornings when I confront the mirror -- it's always a bitter confrontation -- I recoil, shocked by the once-ruddy face that abruptly (at least that's how it feels) turned ashen gray before sagging into layers like cheap shingles on a tear down. My hair, once light brown and thick, is a deathly gray, not a color really but what remains when there is no color left; the stuff on old corpses that are disinterred so that promising Ph.D.'s can examine whether the poor bugger was poisoned with arsenic after all, which of course he was.

Staring at the gaunt silhouette in the mirror, which stares back with imploring eyes, I realize my body has abdicated. The anarchists are on the palace grounds.

You can't see me, can you? Not if you are young and still unbeaten. I am black and white fading to gray; you are living color. I am driven by pain; you by passion. I am a shadow, diaphanous and bent. An OLD MAN. A SENIOR citizen. A GERIATRIC. At best, I've devolved into one of those quaint caricatures, Grandmas and Grandpas with fishy breath and worn to the nub buttoned-down sweaters (buttoned down because we can no longer manage a pullover).

To you, I look as though I have always been old, a permanent disfigurement upon the human landscape and a painful reminder of the road ahead. (Though you don't really believe you'll ever look this bad, do you?) To me, the face in the mirror continues to torment long after the initial, degrading changes, like being convicted and punished daily for the crime of simply hanging in there day after day.

Grant me that I did hang in there, never boarding a doomed plane, never inhaling a deadly virus, never crushed by a car. For eighty-one years I have ducked and dodged the slings and arrows of outrageous bullshit. Missed me, bastards! Six months on the Western Front and the whole goddamn German Army -- the jack-booted J?gers, the Landwehr and the Sturmtruppen, the Scharfsch?tzen and the Flammentruppen and the Prussian Guard -- couldn't lay a fucking finger on me. (Well, maybe a few fingers, but not enough to do the job.) Kiss my ass, Ludendorff! (You butcher.)

Yet finally, I am brought to my swollen knees by a hundred thousand indignities, small slices of the blade that have drained the blood from my face.

And I'm so tired.

Meet the Author

Jonathan Hull spent ten years as an award-winning correspondent at Time magazine, including three as Jerusalem bureau chief. The best-selling author of The Distance from Normandy and The Devoted, he lives in Sausalito, California.

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Losing Julia 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 45 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I've had an advance reading copy of this book in my library for years but never got around to reading it until a week ago. I read slow (stay at home mom of 4) so I only read at night but havn't been to bed before midnight because of this book! It is so romantic but not a sappy D. Steele'ish type romantic but true deep, make your heart ache for these people type love. OMG this is just so well written and witty. The main character is so likable I did not want it to end and need to read it again which I've never done with a book before. Although, the cover of the published book is not nearly as good as the advance reading copy and they REALLY should have stayed with the original. It was much truer to the story and somewhat haunting now that I've finished reading it. This is set during the war so it's not just a love story. Must read!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have read this book twice and enjoyed it each time. It is a wonderful tale of love, loss, and aging. I think it speaks to the human experience. I think that everyone will find something profound to take away from this reading experience.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book will totally captivate you. It is one of the best books I have ever read. The language and description Hull uses is phenominal. He is able to put life's moments into words that will make you cry, laugh and say 'Oh, how true that really is.' Jonathan hull puts a true prospective on love, war and just growing old.
AngieJG More than 1 year ago
Wow. What a  beautiful book. It had every element you could ask for in a novel - love, fear, pain, heartbreak, comedy, and characters that were real and relatable. I wanted to write down so many statements in from the book. There are countless words of wisdom that the author puts out for the reader. There are many layers to this novel. One person may walk away from this read with a different perspective than another. It was so interesting hearing something from a senior citizens perspective, one sitting in a rest home. The way Patrick reflects on his life, sometimes with humor, other times with horror. He approaches death with fear, loathing, and sometimes relief. I could go on. There is so much to take away from this book. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book very much even though I had not expected to, since it related to war.
Aimee_Leon More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this novel. Beautifully written about a bittersweet love and lost. Which is worth the read. The story was very touching with the honesty, humor, softness and love with which the author has been able to identify so brilliant his story. Oh warning you will be needing a pack of tissues when you get to the ending.
Guest More than 1 year ago
looking back at life... the brutal reality of a nursing home rings with the even more brutal memories of war.... and a passion that was once had, but lost.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I love to story alot. Heck I read the book so many times. And a week ago I just finished the audio book. Which was great! Even though it was unbridged as in not complete from the original novel. Please don't get me wrong all the great parts are in the story. I've only notice the tiny parts they left out b/c of the dozens times I've read it. Some might think it's silly of me reading Losing Julia as crazy and then the audio book. But what could I say? When I saw it in my local library I just had to try it out. And I'm glad I did. It was fabulous. The narrator did an excellent job. His voice just took me there. I'd recommend it to anyone. Trust me you'll luv it!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Jonathan Hull is a modern Hemingway/Dreiser author. This book is superbly well written. The author has so much talent it is almost obscene. Elizabeth Berg, move over. Your crown has been removed to the head of Jonathan Hull.This is one book you will be totally unable to put down. It ends too quickly
Guest More than 1 year ago
This novel is a true masterpiece!. I really enjoyed reading it. I must admit that there was some slow parts, but the love they share was very beautiful and intense. Also a real tear-jerker.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was chosen for our "Heart Book" book club. This means that the books belongs to our heart, has changed us, or made a substantial impact in our lives. When I first began reading Losing Julia, at about page 50, I groaned. This was someone's heart book and I thought there would be nothing worse than finishing this book. Then I reached about page 150 and it all changed. Patrick, the main character, stole my heart. He is a cynical man, unable to see all the wonder and beauty he brings into the word. His small acts of compassion and kindness for the other residents and the employees at Great Oaks were simple and easy and nothing special to him. Yet they brought the best of life back to these people. I wished I could hug him each and every time he did something grand and just shrugged his shoulders. This book was not about Julia for me. It was about the war scenes, the horror, the destruction, the fear that the men endured. It was about the scenes in the retirement home, what life is like as you wait for death. Julia was an afterthought, yet a moment in history that completely defined Patrick as a man, creating the loving soul within him that he could not see. So this has now become one of my heart books.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
It's not often that you find a book that you wished you had hundreds of copies of to share with everyone you know! This was such a book. Tender, maddening, endearing and oh so poignant! An epic of great proportions, which speaks of the human heart, soul, loves and a vivid portrayal of our Soldier's lives & legacy. Thanks Johnathan!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read this book in one night, and as soon as I was finished, I turned back to page one and started again. Made me see love, war, growing old, being young, and friendships in ways I'd never thought of before. And even more, importantly, he put words to thoughts that had been swimming around in my head for years. Over and over again, I was screeching, 'Oh, my goodness! I'm not the only one who's felt that way!!' Excellent read. Prepare to cry a little, laugh a lot, and be enlightened.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was a very beautiful & sad story, but still a good read. This book has shown me that it's better to of lost & love, then never to have love before. I loved it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
What a great book! I read it every year, and I'm never disappointed!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book should be a must for anyone working in a nursing home. It continues to haunt me long after reading it. Hull's writing is beautiful, descriptive and vivid.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was outstanding,romantic and also alittle tragic. But it's all worth buying & reading. I would recommend anyone to read it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am only half way through the book, but all ready want to know if he wrote anything else. Did he? A very sensitive author and telling us how Patrick feels and reacts. World War I is mostly forgotten and this brings it back. I have a book going at all times and this is one I don't want to put down. I'm looking forward to finding out if he finds Julia again.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have heard stories of WWI, my grandfather fought in that war, but it never seemed real to me. This book showed the horror of that war. I never realized how much of an impact this war had on the world at that time. And the love story is beautiful. I loved the ending. It was right. I would very much like to read more from this author. He has a very wonderful understanding of people. He describes a scene so you can see it, you know exactly what is happening. You almost feel like you are there. This is a book I highly recommend. I will read this one again & again.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Jonathan Hull's Losing Juila was a superbly written novel. I enjoyed this book a lot and agree with his concepts of living in the past with regrets. Patrick's attracting personality and words of wisdom to friends in the nursing home is amazing. His strong, and passionate love for Julia and his grief of fearing to lose her grips your entire attention and touches your heart. YOU HAVE TO READ THIS!! :)
Guest More than 1 year ago
What a book! I did not want this book to end. Jonathan Hull did an outstanding job putting into words the emotions and experience of one man, Patrick Delaney. And I felt every emotion and experience as I read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I rarely buy books anymore, especially in hardcover, because I can usually find them later at a garage sale for a lot cheaper. For this book, I don't want to take a chance, & I don't want to NOT own it. I want it in hardcover because this book deserves a place of honor on my shelves. I am a 'dove' yet I love this story about WW1 & its aftermath. Patrick is a man I would've wanted to know... and love. And, thanks to this book, I do. This is the story of a man reviewing his life (from a nursing home) that is both humorous & poignant. E-mail me if you read it & don't like it...
Guest More than 1 year ago
Jonathan Hull has written a lovely debut novel in Losing Julia. It is difficult to portray strong emotions such as grief, love and intense fear without crossing the line into trite overwrought sentimentality, yet Hull manages to pull it off. Losing Julia is told from the point-of-view of eighty-one year old Patrick Delaney and takes us back through his life as a soldier in the trenches of France in World War I, then ten years later to a chance meeting with his best friend's fiancée, Julia, to the present day. Losing Julia is an elegantly written book about love, the loss of love and the ravages of war on the individual psyche. Although parts of the book can be horrifying, Hull wisely gives us touches of warm-hearted humor as well. The stereotypical crotchety old man, Patrick is, by turns, poetic and sardonic, but he is always lovable. In the hands of a lesser writer, Losing Julia might have easily become melodramatic...the stuff of a television daytime soap opera, but Hull's writing is so good, so elegant, so classy, that most readers will find they can't help but share Patrick's thoughts and want to make them their own. Patrick is certainly no cookie-cutter character. He grows and changes immensely from the time he is a struggling, young poet trying to come to terms with the horrors of war, to the wise, and sometimes witty, older man in the nursing home. He never has all the answers, but he really doesn't feel he needs them. I found Hull, and Patrick, to be so correct about our penchant to let the present slip by when Patrick talks about our tendency to live only in regrets for the past or hopes for the future. Hull's descriptions of the battle scenes in World War I are filled with detail, although some of them do border on the purple. His metaphors tend to be those of a world that is slitting its own wrists and bleeding to death. It's elegant writing, sure, and it is, at times, poetic, but I really doubt that men in battle think that way and this is where I think the book fails a little. This is not a book that describes war in the graphic way that can be found in Stephen Wright's Meditations in Green, nor is it a book that, I think, that will achieve the staying power of Mark Helprin's classic, A Soldier of the Great War. It is, however, a warm and wonderful story of love and friendship, of loss and gain, and, although the ending is a bit unbelievable, the character of Patrick is still so well-drawn that Losing Julia is an enjoyable and very worthwhile novel.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Jonathan Hull did an amazing job in describing the emotions, actions, and scenes of WWI. I would recommend this to anyone. I found it intriguing and captivating. Hull has a lot of skill in researching this horrible war that no one wanted to talk about. Why did we repeat those horrors in WWII? You would think people would learn from the first one. However, I found the aging part of the story humorous at times, revealing on that mystery of aging and also a little slow. I would have given it 5 stars but the love story was a bit disappointing.