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The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society
Miscellanea and Ephemeron

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12/10/2006 Archived Entry: "Book Review: Julius Winsome: A Novel"

Julius Winsome: A Novel
By Gerard Donovan
Published by The Overlook Press

Review by Kathryn Ramage

I probably shouldn't have read this book so soon after Tales of Woodsman Pete. While I was reading Julius Winsome, a sentence from my Woodsman Pete review kept popping into my head: "It's a lonely existence... and it's made him a mite peculiar."

Julius Winsome lives a lonely existence in a cabin in the woods with only two companions: a dog named Hobbes and the collection of books left to him by his father. There was also once a girl-friend, who suggested he get a dog to keep him company, and has since left him for someone else.

When Hobbes is shot by a hunter in the woods one day, Julius first tries to find out who killed his dog. His efforts lead to nothing, and he begins lying in wait for hunters in the wood, and shooting them; he asks each, "Did you shoot this dog?" before (or after) they die. Eventually, he begins to believe that his old girl-friend, or the man she now loves, are responsible for the dog's death and he plans his revenge accordingly.

This description admittedly doesn't make it sound like much--a murderer's activities from his own point of view, and we've seen plenty of those before--but what puts this story into a class of its own is the literary side of it. The words and phrases of his father's books, Shakespeare, Donne, Milton, and other classic works, form the thoughts in his head as Julius moves though shock and grief, vengeance, loneliness, longing and jealousy, and reflect the state of his mind as he moves away from sanity and turns "peculiar."

The author also manages to develop a great deal of sympathy for his main character before the killing spree starts. We see it through Julius's eyes, but the shooting of the dog looks more like a deliberately act of cruelty than an accident, and the unseen idiots who write remarks on the posters he puts up in town, asking for information about who shot Hobbes, also look callous and cruel. Although I can't agree with the steps he takes afterwards, I felt for Julius at this point.

Also, the ending of this story is nothing that I had anticipated.

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