2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
A Lovely Debut,
This review is from: Losing Julia (Mass Market Paperback)
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 the 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 it, 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.