JUNO AND JULIET
This winning debut novel from Irishman Gough chronicles the first year of university for the eponymous pair of identical twins as they progress from innocence to experience in Galway, on the westernmost point of Europe. Juliet, the more reserved and less star-crossed of the two, narrates their year. As students, they fill their days with theater, drinking and dating, not to mention reading and, perhaps most dramatically, thinking. Gough has managed to create characters unusual in the annals of campus novels—they are neither adolescent buffoons nor inhumanly pretentious. The supporting characters, including a charismatic actor, a drunken playwright, another set of twins—this time a pair of well-meaning criminals—and a shy young literature professor, are as vivid as the two principals. The plot centerpiece, involving a set of mysterious, threatening letters, is somewhat threadbare, and the narrative is more purposefully carried along by the frequently funny and always skillfully told episodes recounting minor everyday dilemmas. Galway, with its intimate scale and moody weather, is a character in its own right. The author writes appreciatively of the city, as if the world outside this midsized, seaside Irish town didn't exist. The non-Dublin urban setting, rarely captured in Irish novels though now central to the life of the country, is an important and original choice. Gough's novel is a genuine and generous portrayal of a place and its inhabitants, and with it he takes his place as part of a younger generation of comedic Irish novelists—including Joseph O'Connor and Anne Enright—who are becoming better known on these shores. (July 17)
Forecast: Marketed as one of Doubleday's Fiction for the Rest of Us titles, the book will get a big push from the publisher. This, coupled with the popularity of Irish writers, should make it a favorite summer handsell.