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Julius Winsome - Book of the Month

by Gerard Donovan

Since his father died twenty years ago, Julius Winsome has lived alone in the wilds of Northern Maine, fifteen miles from the nearest town, with only his beloved dog, Hobbes, and 3,282 books for company. One day, while Julius is absorbed in a Chekhov short story, Hobbes goes out and doesn’t return. He is eventually found dying among the flowers outside the tiny cabin, shot at point-blank range.

Julius narrates the tale and his voice, that of someone whose knowledge and experience of the world are learnt from books, is at once archaic and poetic. It’s a language well suited to expressing the pain of loss:

“The shovel worked in and out of the light beams as the dirt hit him in the stomach, on his back, fell into his ears, his eyes, as I covered him along with the things that had made him: his walks, his rest, his eating when hungry, the stars he watched sometimes, the first day I brought him home, the first time he saw snow, and every second of his friendship, what he took with him into silence and stillness; I shoveled the whole world on top of my friend and felt the weight of it as though I lay with him in that dark.”

With Hobbes’ death, Julius loses his tenuous hold on reason and, without human society to give him perspective, sets out on a bloody campaign to avenge his friend’s death.

This powerful novel is a revenge tragedy as cruel and inevitable as the merciless wind that brings snow from Canada, blowing through every space and “rattling the syllables out of your sentences sometimes”. It is also a breathtakingly beautiful study of a soul, brittle from solitude and finally broken by grief and loss.

Read our interview with Gerard Donovan.

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