Looking Back... In an effort to transfer my book journal entries over to this blog, I'm going to attempt to post (in chronological order) an entry every Friday. I may or may not add extra commentary to what I jotted down in these journals.
2000 Delacorte Press
Read twice: April 2000 and March 2001
Rating: 5/5 (Excellent)
Jonathan Hull's debut novel is an epic story of love found and lost, of life in all its joy and tragedy, that takes readers as far as a French battlefield during World War I and as near as a California nursing home. Spanning the twentieth century in time, and forever in heartfelt emotion, Losing Julia is storytelling prowess at its most sublime.
Through the eyes of Patrick Delaney, both bright as a nineteen-year-old American soldier off to fight the Great War and dim as an eighty-one-year-old man, Jonathan Hull shows readers one man's world of discovery, of love, and ultimately, of regret.
Julia was the beautiful lover of Patrick's best friend, Daniel. Patrick knew he was meant to be with her the moment he first saw her at a memorial service in eastern France, on the tenth anniversary of the battle in which Daniel died. Though married, Patrick falls desperately in love with Julia during the brief but unforgettable time they spend together exploring the still-battle-scarred countryside and grappling to make sense of what took place there. Struggling to reconcile their love with the havoc of war and life's obligations, Julia and Patrick cling to each other until one faltered 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, readers will make an unforgettable journey through Patrick Delaney's memories as he questions whether the joy he shared with Julia can outweigh the losses of a lifetime.
My Original Notes (2000):
Wonderful, wonderful novel! I became engrossed from the very beginning, yet tried to read slowly, savoring each sentence. Initially, I had some difficulty with the three timelines, but it didn't take too long to get used to the transitions. Beautifully written. Funny, yet sad. Thought-provoking. Makes me want to read more about World War I.
My Original Notes (2001):
Beautifully crafted story of love, reflection, hope and regret.
This is the second time I've read Losing Julia. It wasn't nearly the pager-turner as with the first reading, but I enjoyed it on a different level just as much. I got more out of the beautiful writing this time. I knew the storyline, so I wasn't as anxious to find out what was going to happen. Oh, I love this book. I got a huge lump in my throat and teary-eyed as I read the last few pages. I have dog-eared dozens of pages. I want to write a fan letter to Mr. Hull. Rating: 10/10 Excellent!!
My Current Thoughts:
I loved this book, but I'm surprised I read it a second time so soon after the first reading. If my memory is correct, I think the second reading was for a book club discussion. It's now been 20 years since that reading and I think it's time for a third.
Last night I dreamed that I met a young boy who told me with the saddest eyes that he was never born and I asked how could that be and he explained very slowly and quietly that his father had died at the front. And then I looked behind the boy and I saw hundreds of the thousands of children, just standing there. Infinitely mute.
Maybe I saw her sitting on the beach too, or maybe it was just the expression on Daniel's face when he talked about her, but for me, Julia soon became my own escape from the war; my personal guardian angel who beckoned me away from the madness every time I closed my eyes. Daniel offered hundreds of dots and I connected them, until the most beautiful woman I'd ever seen emerged, my angel in the trenches; my incantation against despair. My Julia.
I miss my books. I gave most of them away when I sold the house. I had 2,142 of them, not counting the books at my store, which I considered mine as well, my darling pets up for adoption. The kids took what they wanted and the rest I gave to a local library. I've felt naked ever since, like a soldier stripped of his weapons.
Like most bookworms I read so as not to be alone, which often annoys those who are trying to make conversation with me. Lately I've taken to rereading the classics of my youth—a rare chance to relive the past—though I must confess that some of the books aren't what I remember at all.
Books aren't just my defenses, the sandbags I use to fortify my position; they are also the building blocks of my soul, and I am the sum of all I read. The truth is, reading about life has always proved much more satisfactory than living it, and certainly reading about people is far more interesting than actually sitting across from them at, say, a dinner party. On the page people come alive: they have sex, they travel, the reveal their deepest thoughts, they struggle against overwhelming odds, they search for meaning. In person, well, few dinner partners do any of these things.
It is said that life is too short and that’s quite true, unless you are lonely. Loneliness can bring time to its knees; an absolute and utter standstill.
I’ve always judged places and times by how lonely they felt. The entire Midwest, for example, strikes me as horrifically lonely, Indiana more so than Wisconsin and Wisconsin more so than Ohio or Illinois. Coasts are dependably less lonely than inland areas while the warmer latitudes are noticeably less lonely than the colder ones. Hardware stores feel lonely while bookstores do not. Mornings are lonelier than afternoons, while the hours before dawn can be devastating. Vienna is lonelier than Paris or London, while Los Angeles is lonelier than San Francisco or Boston. The Atlantic Ocean is lonelier than the Pacific while the Caribbean is not lonely at all.
And then there are nursing homes.