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Authors: Jonathan Hull

Tags: #literature, #Paris, #France, #romance, #world war one, #old age, #Historical Fiction

Losing Julia

BOOK: Losing Julia
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Praise for

LOSING JULIA

“[AN] EARNEST, ELEGANT FIRST NOVEL… Hull’s research is assiduous; he seamlessly incorporates period detail… Patrick is a winning narrator, charming and honest and direct.”
—Publishers Weekly

“The touches of historical and technical detail are expert and used with admirable restraint… the war scenes… [are] rendered… convincingly and movingly.”
—San Francisco Chronicle

“AN EVOCATIVE AND BITTERSWEET NOVEL…
Hull powerfully re-creates the horrors and the heroism of war.”
—Parade

“ELEGANTLY WRITTEN AND SHAPED,
Losing Julia
touches the heart and lingers in the mind… A haunting story of a love in some ways lost but eternal in others.”
—Roanoke Times

“[A] grasp of history and sense of story combined with remarkable freshness.”
—Washington Post Book World

“Engaging… For lovers of sweeping, nostalgic, romantic stories, Hull has produced a fine example in this first novel.”
—Library Journal

“A GORGEOUS DEBUT NOVEL… scenes of war and making love are described with an equal and stunning starkness… Hull’s confidence and mastery turn an economy of words and emotions into art.”
—BookPage

“It’s been a long time since I’ve spoken so passionately about a book that at least five people bought it after a lunch or meeting with me. Or that I’ve talked about a novel’s characters as if they were old friends. Or that I’ve dog-eared so many pages I have some folded both ways because there were lines on both sides that I wanted to remember… I urge you to read LOSING JULIA.”

Carol Fitzgerald, President, Bookreporter.com

 

 

Copyright © 2000 by Jonathan Hull
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without the written permission of the Publishers, except where permitted by law.
Library of Congress Control Number: 2012901585
Digital edition ISBN: 978-0-9848218-1-5
February 2012

Dancing Muse Press
Sausalito, California
Book Cover and Layout Design by
the
BookDesigners
Cover images © Lia G / Arcangel Images, Stephen Mulcahey / Arcangel Images
eBook formatting by
Guido Henkel
Also by Jonathan Hull:
T
HE
D
EVOTED
T
HE
DISTANCE
FROM
N
ORMANDY
For the latest news, reading group guides and more, visit:
www.jonathanhull.com

For Judy, Dylan, and Kelsey

All art is a revolt against man’s fate.
—André Malraux

Early on the morning of October 18, 1980, in a clearing near a woods in eastern France, I found the body of an elderly American named Patrick Delaney slumped against a small granite monument that bears the names of 152 American soldiers who died on that date in 1918. On the ground next to him was a worn leather-bound diary, a pen, an empty glass and a bottle of Scotch dating from the 1920s, its label covered with signatures.

This is his story.

—Natalie
DECEMBER 12, 1981
PARIS.

I
WAS GLAD that it rained. Not just a drizzle but big furious drops that lashed against us and danced at our feet. Our discomfort seemed somehow appropriate, all of us standing there with tears and rain washing down our taut faces, overcome by so many names. The clouds were just right too, dark and solemn as they marched slowly past, heavy with grief. But what got me most were the birds, dozens of them in every tree, loud and insistent. I remember listening and thinking how familiar they sounded, so that I couldn’t close my eyes for more than a moment without tumbling back.

It was my first trip back to France. I had taken a train from Paris to Reims, where I rented a car and drove five hours, getting lost twice. Charlotte stayed in Paris with our son Sean, who was three then, and her sister Margaret, who had traveled with us from the States. I knew Charlotte wouldn’t join me for the service; she had no tolerance for battlefields or military reunions and rarely asked about my experiences at the front. I didn’t blame her though, and I was glad that she didn’t complain when I told her that I’d be gone for six days.

I never did come back. Not completely.

That was in 1928, a time when thousands of memorials were still being erected across France and Belgium: great big arches engraved with row upon row of names; small plaques and crosses in little fenced-in plots; solitary obelisks and statues in village squares; every one of them attended by mothers and fathers and wives and lovers who still remembered; vividly.

Page and a few others were there, dressed in their old uniforms, subtly altered. I didn’t bring mine. Charlotte said I looked foolish when I tried it on, but that’s not why I left it. Standing in front of the mirror and looking at myself, I decided I didn’t want to see myself that way anymore. Not ever again.

“It feels sort of strange to be here, doesn’t it?” said Page, lighting his third cigarette in a row and cupping it in his hand to protect it from the rain. I thought he looked much older than his age and wondered how many years a war takes off a man. “I wasn’t sure if I should come.”

“Glad you did,” I said.

“Makes me sad, thinking of the guys.”

I nodded.

“At least this time we get to see France.”

“Yes, at least we can do that.”

I proposed that we meet in Paris on that Friday for a night out but he was leaving the next morning on a family vacation. Just in case, I gave him the name of the hotel where Charlotte and I were staying and told him to call, though I didn’t think he would.

The monument itself, a long granite rectangle four feet high, was draped in a white cloth. Nearby, two small tables were covered with food provided by a local committee of mostly overweight French women, who smiled incessantly and kissed our cheeks with great delight. After a few speeches the cloth was removed and a wreath placed at the base. During a moment of silence I closed my eyes tight and let the birds take me. When I opened my eyes I saw her.

I knew right away, though I’d never seen her before. All the long nights listening to Daniel describe her; straining to see her face as he read her letters out loud, his voice mixing with the muffled cough of distant artillery.

I stood up on my toes to get a better look at her, craning my neck above the small crowd. She stood farther back than anyone; I think she might have arrived late. I couldn’t catch her eye but I could see her profile clearly. A little taller than I had imagined; darker hair, partially hidden beneath a scarf.

When the ceremony ended, she walked slowly over to the monument and rested both hands on it, as though praying. Then she leaned forward and searched through the names.

I stood immobile, watching. It had to be her. Julia. The woman Daniel had planned to marry. The mother of the child he never lived to meet. I remembered Daniel telling me how he felt the first time he saw her; how he just
knew.
I watched as she slowly ran her fingers along the granite, stopping at Daniel’s name, then carefully tracing each letter. I looked at her slender hands and her narrow shoulders and the side of her face and her dark brown hair and the way she tilted her head slightly, as though adjusting to the sight of Daniel’s name in stone.

Finally I approached her.

“Julia?”

She turned quickly and I saw those bright green eyes, and even in her sadness they were smiling, just like Daniel described them.

So it was her. And how perfect she looked, more perfect than I had imagined, with the kind of face that you instinctively want to touch and kiss and gaze at for hours. Even now as I recall her features: her sharp jawline, her small nose and pronounced cheekbones—what I remember most is the searing sensation of looking into her eyes for the first time, eyes that would haunt me for the rest of my life.

“I’m sorry, I should introduce myself. I’m—”

“But wait, I know who you are.”

“You do?”

“Patrick. Patrick… Delaney. Am I right?”

“Yes, but how did you know?”

“I’ve heard a lot about you, from Daniel’s letters.” She offered me her hand. “I’m glad to meet you. I never expected… ”

“I didn’t either.”

The rain started to come down faster and soon people were hurrying to their cars. I saw Page wave at me as he struggled with an umbrella.

“You’re wet. Should we go?” I asked, wishing I had an umbrella to offer her.

“I don’t mind it,” she said. I watched a drop of rain run slowly down her cheek, hesitating at the corner of her mouth. I struggled not to stare.

She wasn’t glamorous. There was even a certain plainness to her appearance—no fashionable bob or plucked eyebrows—but that’s what made her so appealing. Her warm, soft features were strikingly natural, as though she’d look the same whether just getting out of bed or going out to dinner. Meanwhile, her shy smile and flashing eyes—what life they held!—suggested an interesting combination of strength and vulnerability. When I caught myself staring, I forced my gaze away.

One by one the cars pulled onto the road and sped off. We stood there awkwardly for a moment, then began walking slowly around the monument, reading the names. After a few minutes the rain let up.

“I spent two weeks in San Francisco looking for you,” I said finally. “I even put advertisements in the papers.”

“You did? Really?” She looked surprised.

I nodded, feeling embarrassed. “I had promised Daniel I’d find you, though I had no idea what I was going to say if I did.”

“That was very kind of you.” She touched my shoulder, and from the expression on her face I could tell she was moved.

“I wasn’t too successful.”

“I’m afraid I’ve moved around a lot. I spent three years in Seattle after the war. I had a job teaching.”

“Painting? Daniel said that you—”

BOOK: Losing Julia
7.38Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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