songwriter turned novelist
Dave Finch flees Belfast with his brother Stephen, on the run from political thugs Stephen has foolishly offended. The brothers settle in Stonebridge with some discreet family friends. Soon, they fall into a routine that includes a lot of dancing and drinking. Stephen meets the ravishing June and, naturally, falls for her. But so does Dave. When June chooses Dave, a bitter rivalry grows between the brothers.
The thugs eventually catch up with Stephen, leading to dreadful consequences. Dave is devastated and soon unravels. Even the possibility of happiness offered in marriage to June and the joyous birth of their son Mattie can’t save him. Over the next ten years, Dave drinks, loses his job, neglects his family, gets arrested. Fed up, June leaves.
After a few months of sobriety, Dave struggles to make amends and restore his life. But it just might be too late. June’s sister Susan is raising a sullen, resentful Mattie, and June is gone.
Damien Leith has translated his pop stardom into a budding literary career. Remember June is his second novel and parallels his newly released album of the same name. Leith has said in interviews that he’s always written stories alongside his lyrics. And herein lies the problem.
An album contains a set of songs, each of which stands alone even when they are thematically connected. A novel, on the other hand, requires textual coherence and a rich interlacing of themes that build to a climax. Sadly, Remember June is a series of disjointed ideas more like a record album. Here’s the one about the fleeing young men; here’s a love song; next, a ballad on sibling rivalry; then, the hymn to wedded bliss, the rant of alcoholic despair, the lyric about father and son. Missing in all this is emotional depth, a clear storyline, and any kind of satisfying resolution.
Remember June, Damien Leith, Harper Collins.
Review first published in The Courier-Mail in April 2010.