...a triptych whose plot unfolds over the course of three Junes (in 1989, 1995 and 1999) … Among the novel's successes is the elegance with which Glass splices an account of Fenno's New York life in between the goings-on in Scotland. In the American passages, the main attraction is a marvelously drawn character named Malachy Burns, a music critic for The New York Times...The dying critic displays a delicious blend of blasphemy and wit … Glass has also filled her novel with set pieces on a range of subjects, from collie breeding to the culinary arts, which form a backdrop for the McLeods' dreams and disappointments … Masterfully, Three Junes shows how love follows a circuitous path, how its messengers come to wear disguises. Julia Glass has written a generous book about family expectations – but also about happiness, luck and, as she puts it, the ‘grandiosity of genes.’
Julia Glass has written a radiant first novel that turns the story of Scotland native Fenno McLeod and his real and extended family of ‘upper-crusty Ivanhoe’ types, creative women and urban gay men into an intimate literary triptych of lives pulled together and torn apart … Paul's story is a finely detailed portrait of a somewhat ordinary life and the handful of people, past and present, who make their way into it. But the novel's most sustained scrutiny is reserved for Fenno, Paul's bibliophile eldest son who has a preference for men and remains devoted to the mother whose passionate life, tragically cut short by lung cancer, he never really understood. Fenno's lengthy first-person narrative takes its place at the literal and symbolic center of Three Junes, providing the anchor point for the intricate web of characters that make up Glass' thoughtful textual design.
The novel's sly private joke is to drop in on its characters every few years, but only in June -- month of weddings and commencements, those two great milestones that never sneak up on anybody. By contrast, life in Three Junes blindsides everybody, visiting joy and heartbreak on these exquisitely drawn characters with no warning whatever. It's a haphazard but life-affirming way to plot a novel, enhanced by Glass' micrometer-like attentiveness not just to a character's feelings, but also to his feelings about those feelings … All this rich layering comes at a cost, however forgivable. The author's time scheme, which fixes each character in a particular month and year only to roam at will through their histories, gets to seeming needlessly cantilevered and baroque.