"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 1920's, its label covered with signatures.
This is his story."
So begins Losing Julia, a haunting and beautiful exploration of the
concept of loss, whether it be through the horrors of war or the decay of
old age. Patrick Delaney, in a nursing home, surrounded by the death of
his hospital mates, recounts the story behind the loss of his one great
love, Julia, the girlfriend of his best friend lost in the war.
When he meets Julia years after the war at the memorial, he
immediately begins a tragic affair which leaves him unable to forget the
woman he believes is his destiny, despite the obstacles of his wife and
child. During the short duration of their affair, he leads Julia through
the French countryside, avoiding the discussion of Daniel's death he
cannot bear to initiate. In the nursing home, much as on the battlefield,
Delaney watches as he loses one person after another to an undignified
death. With one last burst of energy, he returns to France to try to find
the woman he lost decades ago, only to find her grand-daughter Natalie
miraculously tending the monument.
A sense of waste pervades this novel--a waste of life and potential, be it
youth on the battlefield or the wasting away of the body, especially the
ultimate sadness of surviving so much to die in such a way. Delaney
remains the last man living from both his army pals and his nursing home
freinds. The certainty of death resonates throughout the novel, as does
Patrick's fear of losing rationality and senses, be it in war or old
age. The question of memory plays a large role--what we want to forget,
what we want to remember. The loss of his memory plagues Delaney, as his
past begins to slip away, first the details, then the face of his beloved
Julia. With limited time, he struggles to put his life in perspective.
Hull ties all these pieces together wonderfully, presenting a poignant
contrast between horror and beauty, love and war. The description of
war-time France, the beauty of the countryside intermixed with the horror
of the battlefield, is breathtaking. The novel moves
effortlessly between the past and present, carrying us between the two
almost imperceptably, presenting the ultimatel parallels between the
landscape of the nursing home and WWI. As a sad tale of romance and war
that spans nearly the entire century, Losing Julia is highly