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Donovan, Gerard - 'Julius Winsome'
Paperback: 200 pages (May 2007) Publisher: Faber and Faber ISBN: 0571235360

How far would you go to avenge the killing of a dog? In Gerard Donovan's JULIUS WINSOME, the qualification of justice quickly becomes a moot point. Julius, who lives with his dog Hobbes in a book-lined cabin in the remote Maine forests, makes no effort to justify his actions when he picks up a rifle and sets out to hunt down the hunters who shot his dog to death. This is not an eye-for-an-eye revenge tale, in which one life equates with another and the death of a man, or men, theoretically cancels out the death of a dog. In masterfully restrained prose that is both muscular and delicate, Donovan weaves a compelling tale in which a grief-maddened man obeys the dictates of his instincts, in the process unleashing a lethal brand of natural justice that bears no resemblance to its human equivalent. "I was the rifle. I was the bullet, the aim, what a word means when it stands on its own. That is what revenge means even if you write it down."

As bleak and life-affirming as Beckett, JULIUS WINSOME exerts a hypnotic pull that renders Julius, despite his apparently sordid, Quixotic motivation, one of the most sympathetic protagonists in recent memory. That it reads like Cormac McCarthy redrafting Kafka is one of its many joys, the writing clear as a bell despite the effect of the emotional muffling, like the sharp crack of a frost-heavy branch during a heavy fall of snow. Even as the pace accelerates and tension mounts and events spiral out of control towards their inevitable denouement, you will find yourself deliberately applying the brakes, turning the pages slower and slower, the better to wallow in the sheer joy of finding yourself at the mercy of a master storyteller.

Declan Burke, Ireland
October 2007

Declan blogs at
Crime Always Pays.

last updated 10/10/2007 20:52