Today is June 16, and if you know why that is important in the literary world, then The Sixteenth of June by Maya Lang will quite likely appeal to you. If you don’t know or care about Bloomsday, there is a good chance that you will like The Sixteenth of June if you tend to like the books I like.
The Sixteenth of June is a quiet and unassuming social satire set coincidentally on the day of Michael’s mother’s funeral and his annual Bloomsday celebration. It revolves around his sons Leopold and Stephen and their shared interest in Nora, Leopold’s fiance and Stephen’s best friend. Knowledge of Bloomsday, Ulysses or Joyce is entirely optional, as most of the characters in the book have never read Ulysses and have little understanding of it. That being said, I’ve never read Ulysses, so maybe there is a lot about the book that sailed smoothly over my head!
The strength of the novel comes from Lang’s characters. Each of them were so clearly drawn that they were like real people. In particular, I could relate to Nora and Stephen like they were part of me. A year after her mother’s death Nora is still in mourning and pushing her ever faithful fiance, Leopold, away. Meanwhile Stephen is struggling with finishing his PhD dissertation. Another strength of The Sixteenth of June are the family dynamics. I love the fun that comes from poorly understood pretensions.
Who would like this book? The thing that makes this book stand out for me is the writing. Lang makes it all seem so effortless, and yet upon reflection there is a great deal in the novel. I will be watching closely for whatever she comes out with next.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.