Veins of hostility and menace run through Gerard Donovan’s fiction. Whether one thinks of the baker digging his own grave in the Booker long-listed Schopenhauer’s Telescope, a novel animated by dialogue that reads like a litany of human barbarism, or the paranoid Sunless in the author’s second outing, Dr Salt, the lives of Donovan’s characters might easily be called ‘Hobbesian’. Now the name of the philosopher so famously associated with the solitude, brutality and brevity of life in the state of nature ricochets around the forests of Northern Maine at the beginning of Donovan’s third novel, the starkly beautiful and compelling Julius Winsome, as Julius shouts the name of his doomed dog, deliberately shot in the woods.
Julius lives in the cabin built by his long-dead grandfather. In summer he works as a mechanic and part-time gardener for out-of-towners. In winter he retreats to the cabin, surrounded by his late father’s books – all 3,282 of them. Aside from occasional visits to Fort Kent for supplies, he