Three Junes: Defying Stereotypes

Julia Glass’ Three Junes begins with an all too familiar resemblance to E.M. Forster’s A Room With A View. Both novels start the same way – a group of travelers are gathered around in a pension in a foreign country. While they examine the new culture in which they find themselves – Greece, in Three Junes – they are also closely investigating one another. There are even uncanny similarities in the characters of Glass’ old maid Maureen and Forster’s old sisters. However, this irritating copycat style fades away to let a unique, and, in fact, ultra modern tale come through. Three Junes is a novel that captures what it means to love and spins it in a new and fresh way. Glass explores the many faces of love: across generations, between different and the same sexes, and as platonic or romantic. Yet it would be a rare moment in which the novel would rightfully and completely deserve the mark of clich?e or an eye rolling by a more sarcastic reader. Glass keeps her writing and her story fresh by the way she deals with the subject of love. It is never in your face yet it is all at once the blatant theme of the book. She makes it possible to read this novel without thinking that it is yet another sad love story, a feat in and of itself. The main character, who finds success in telling a unique and genuine story of love, is Fenno. An aloof and often misunderstood man, he leaves his rural childhood town in his homeland of Scotland to move to none other than New York City. As the change in scenery suggests, Fenno is looking for something new and exciting as well as a sense of understanding and fulfillment. The look into American society through the eyes of a foreigner brings up issues with difference and cultural upbringing that are often ignored in stories where the setting is solely that of the USA. Since Fenno’s story (within the larger context of the book) takes place during the early to mid 1990s in the gay communities of Manhattan, death does not stray far from love. Glass handles the epidemic of AIDS with care and empathy, illuminating the injustice of the disease itself and the ills within society that allow for the biased treatment of those struck with the unprejudiced hand of AIDS. Fenno’s relationships, while homosexual, are easy to relate to by readers of all sexual orientations. His friendship with his sickly neighbor and the love he feels for him is always at the forefront of his mind, yet he never allows himself to take his position in their relationship further than as a guardian and watchful neighbor. In contrast, his extremely physical relationship with the arrogant photographer, Tony, produces in Fenno all of the excitement and obsession that crushes do, though Tony ignores Fenno’s existence as a potential partner and at times literally shuts him out of his life. Just as Fenno’s father, Paul, at the start of the book chose to go on a group travel tour of Greece after the death of his wife; Fenno uses New York City as a new culture and society to delve into his own problems with love. These two men, a father and son, are leading very different lives but are actually much more connected than the reader thinks. Glass uses the final section of her novel to explore the relationship between friends and the “love at first sight” feeling between two people, in which sex is not playing a role. It is through this look into finding a soul mate – who is a friend, not a lover – that finally connects Fenno and Paul together and hints at familial love that is so often not acknowledged.