Centuries of June by Keith Donohue


Keith Donohue

Synopsis: "Set in the bathroom of an old house just before dawn on a night in June, Centuries of June is a black comedy about a man who is attempting to tell the story of how he ended up on the floor with a hole in his head. But he keeps getting interrupted by a series of suspects—eight women lying in the bedroom just down the hall. Each woman tells a story drawn from five centuries of American myth and legend in a wild medley of styles and voices.   Centuries of June is a romp through history, a madcap murder mystery, an existential ghost story, and a stunning tour de force at once ingenious, sexy, inspiring, and ultimately deeply moving."

I'll admit when I first heard about Centuries of June and read the first few pages on Amazon, I was intrigued.  However, as I got more into the story, began to wonder what is the point.  Something I rarely do...usually can determine quite quickly the point of most stories.  I almost skipped to the end but decided to stick it out.  The ending was a bit of a let down.   At the beginning of the story, Jack is hit on the head as he enters the bathroom.  He comes to finding someone that resembles his father and a bit of Samuel Beckett as well sitting on the side of the tub.   The man demands some whiskey for his dry throat and in the process of going downstairs, Jack sees 7 naked women lying in his bed.   It gives him food for thought as he goes downstairs to get the drink.   The time stays eternally 4'ish in the morning and the majority of the action takes place in the bathroom.   His father saves him from being beaned in the head by the first woman who appears and then tells her story.   Progressively each woman appears in an attempt to kill him, but then calms down and tells their story.  

Their stories are a mixture of history delving into different time periods and fiction beginning with Dolly who tells the story about a native American woman who married a bear. There is Jane who disguised herself as a cabin boy on a ship of colonists during the 1400's and ends up marooned on a island.  Alice, accused of witchcraft during the Salem Witch trials.  Marie whose entire body is covered in written tattoos which the father must read off her body to share her story about slavery and eventual freedom.   Flo during the gold rush era and Bunny, a femme fetale who cheat on her husband and tried to get her lover to kill him.  So what does this all have to do with Jack and ultimately the 7th woman still lying in the bed asleep.  It turns out he was the leading man in all their stories and by telling him, hope he will get it right in the next life. Because yes he is dead once again and will be moving on in an attempt to maybe get it right in the next life and have learned how to treat women with a bit more respect. 

Pros - the story is well written and the mythology and history recognizable. Con's - it got a bit tedious with each woman trying to kill him and the gab fest taking place in the bathroom between each of the stories until they were done.  The ending as I said was a bit of a disappointment.   If you like odd, existential ghost type like stories, then you'll probably enjoy it. 

Pages:  352
Publisher: Crown
Released:  May 31, 2011
Other thoughts:

In the Next Room:
"In the end, there are two sides to Centuries of June by Keith Donohue- the surreal and the human, and although I far preferred the historical stories to narrators' mystery, the entire novel offers quirky and intelligent writing that definitely has me intrigued to see what other oddities are in Donohue's repertoire."

FyreFly's Book Blog:
"I think Centuries of June would be worth reading for anyone who enjoys the story-within-a-story format, especially if they like their fiction literary, abstract, and a touch bizarre."


  1. A good post. I enjoyed reading it.

  2. I have been really curious about this book, and have been wondering if it would be a good read for me. I think the aspect that I am drawn to the most are the women and their stories. It sounds like it wasn't a favorite read for you, but might work for a light read for me. Thanks for the honest and interesting review. I am still hoping to check it out!

  3. I've been wanting to try this author for a while now but am unsure as to whether or not this one would work for me.


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