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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 16 March 2014
First published in 1965, Elizabeth Jane Howard's fourth novel 'After Julius' focuses on the family of Julius Grace, the story beginning twenty years after the death of Julius, who was shot and killed during the evacuation of troops from Dunkirk in 1940. Esme, Julius's widow, is fifty eight when we first meet her; she lives alone in Sussex and enjoys her comfortable home and pretty garden. She has two daughters living in a shared flat in London: the stunningly beautiful Cressida (Cressy), a concert pianist, who is in her late thirties; and the quietly attractive Emma, who is in her late twenties and works for the family firm of publishers. Cressy, who was widowed during the war after a very brief marriage, has a string of unsatisfactory relationships behind her and is, at present, involved in an unhappy affair with a married man; Emma, is very wary of men and has just begun a friendship with Daniel, a practically penniless poet who is published by Emma's firm, and who is from a rather different section of the social scale to the upper-middle-class Graces. In addition, we meet Doctor Felix King, a middle-aged man who, when he was in his twenties, had an affair with Esme whilst Julius was still alive, and now home from working abroad, wants to meet up with Esme whom he has not seen for twenty years. (No spoilers, we learn all of this fairly early on in the novel). One weekend, all of these characters, and a few additional extras (one of them a disastrous surprise for at least one member of the family) congregate at Esme's home where, at the dinner party from hell, some rather surprising home truths are revealed and where we learn more about what actually happened to Julius.

Beautifully written and with some wonderful descriptions of situation and setting, this novel is a pleasure to read. Elizabeth Jane Howard deftly contrasts the comfortable Grace family home, with the rather dilapidated London flat rented by the two girls with its leaky roof and bathroom painted the colour of tinned peas, and there are some lovely descriptions of the natural world. The author portrays her characters with sensitivity and although, with the amount of characters appearing in this book, it is difficult to get to know them particularly well, I very much enjoyed reading about all of them - even Esme's housekeeper's cowardly cat who was too scared to catch anything but butterflies. Written with perception, elegance and with a certain gentle irony, I found this novel an enjoyable and very entertaining read. Recommended.

4.5 Stars.
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on 28 November 2014
I came to read this work just after reading some recent Chic-Lit, namely 'Sealed with a Kiss' by Rachael Lucas". The latter has earned (so far) 495 customer reviews (4 to 5 stars) whereas 'After Julius' has just 9 reviews (4 to 5 stars with 1 or 2 exceptions), which says more about their relative popularity NOW than their worth as literature. 'After Julius' was published in 1965 whereas the Lucas novel was published in 2013. Indeed you can't really compare them.

The first I became aware of Chic-Lit was the publication of 'Bridget Jones's Diary' published in 1995 although I believe the genre was named as such before this. Chic-Lit generally has just the one female protagonist in a contemporary setting. The 'story' is usually about moving on from a failed relationship in one setting to a more fulfilling one elsewhere. It also features her family and friends (but not the ex-boyfriend).

'After Julius' has a far more complex structure. There are three female protagonists and two males, and spans a period of 20 years from 1940 to 1960. It was the author's 4th novel and appeared in 1965. (Two of the reviews dismissed it as old fashioned.)

The author (a CBE) died on January 2nd 2014 at the age of 90. She was a prize winning novelist with about a dozen novels to her credit, notably the The Cazalet Chronicle (4 novels in all) which concerns the history of a haulage company from before WW2 to the early 50's. I myself have read about half of them and enjoyed them all. I have indeed reviewed two of them.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 15 September 2009
There are a few admirable linguistic felicities in this book which remind me of Jane Austen, something I feel rather ambiguous about. Lovely though these felicities are to work out, do they belong, I wonder, in a modern novel? Though, again, this is not quite a modern novel. Set in the late-1950s, it is about Esme, a fading but still game lady of 58, who is visited by her former lover Felix for a long weekend. Felix has turned up out of the blue. During the war he was a reserved occupation doctor and their love affair was partly the cause of Esme's husband Julius taking himself off to help at Dunkirk, where he was killed. This upset Felix so much that he immediately joined up, had a fairly unremarkable war and then devoted himself to looking after refugees in Korea, until returning to England to become a GP.

Also part of Esme's ménage are her two daughters, Cressida, who, having had a series of affairs with married men, is about to fall dramatically in love with Felix, and Emma, who has just met an odd poet from the lower classes, Daniel, and is about to fall for him in a similarly ton-of-bricks way.

Everyone turns up for a weekend at Esme's comfortable country house and it is all terribly fraught. In a certain kind of novel the word `vulgar' is used to denote anything modern or working class, and it comes up, amusingly (not intentionally) here, in relation to things like television sets. Apart from the odd anachronism like that, this is, however, rather an unexpectedly good novel. One cannot care too much about the sluttish Cressida, but Esme herself has pathos, and Emma is nicely bold and virginal by turns. All in all, a cracking good read.
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on 6 June 2014
I wish I could give this 3 and a half stars. I first read this novel about 30 years ago, along with all of EJH's others, and I count myself a die-hard fan. She never writes less than beautifully and with great wit and humour, and often her novels (particularly "Something in Disguise" and "Getting It Right") are heart-breaking; I'm not such a huge fan of the Cazalet series, although I did enjoy most of them. But, coming back to "After Julius" probably 15 years after I last re-read it... yes I liked most of it, loved the writing, but... something jarred. Now, to me, it has the feeling of a very definitely 1960s stage play more than a novel. What really jarred and offended and annoyed me this time was the character of Daniel. No doubt he's supposed to be a charming naif, but he comes across like a simpleton, almost retarded, certainly childish if not childlike in his ignorance, greed and stupidity. It's impossible to believe in him as a writer. What could this emotional illiterate possibly write? Worse -- he's violently, brutally misogynist, and a rapist. He is loathsome, and although I wasn't so conscious of it on past writings, now he spoils the book entirely for me, and I wanted Emma to be protected from him. As usual with Howard, the more minor characters are sometimes the most effective -- the doctor's wife and the wonderul old Major Hawkes stand out. But if only Howard were still alive to rewrite this without the truly horrible Daniel Brick! Then it would be 5-star along with her rest. It's simplest to say that in that one, unfortunately major, respect the book has not stood the test of time.
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on 15 February 2014
Wonderful story. The writer was so good and will be sadly missed. After Julius is one of her best novels.
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on 8 September 2013
They are beautifully written with characters that are believable and one can relate to. For each book I was sorry when they ended which is proof of how enjoyable I found them
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on 4 February 2014
I have always loved reading Elizabeth jane howard novels. I am very affected by her death, knowing that there will be no new books but I will enjoy rereading all those she already wrote.
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on 13 February 2016
Enjoyed it very much. Beautiful format. A pleasure to handle.
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on 19 February 2016
Dragged on a bit - didn't care for it.
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on 19 March 2016
Beautifully written
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