Julia - Peter Straub Julia is my first Peter Straub read in over a decade. I came across a bulk lot of his books on Ebay, all of his novels in paperback for less than eight bucks, and couldn't help myself. I'd previously read Ghost Story and Koko, and loved both, but I find myself in a dark gray area with Julia.

What started as one hell of a creepy ride soon became an exercise in tedium. All the book's major questions are answered around the halfway mark, but I trudged along anyway, because I was invested in the story. I cannot express this enough: the middle section of this rather short book is a goddamn chore. From page 130 to page 270, I was bored to the point of drooling. All the suspense disappeared, and oddly enough, I felt like I was reading a novelization of a film I'd seen a hundred times over. I knew what characters were going to say, how they were going to react, what they were going to do next... it was fucking surreal. Then I reached the end. Was not expecting that ending whatsoever. Even though the middle of the book is maddeningly banal, the opening and the conclusion are worth the read alone. But I doubt many will want to power through to appreciate the closing scenes.

My major gripes about this novel have quite a bit to do with our main character, the titular Julia. She's the mother of a recently deceased child, but at no point in time did I feel that she mourned the child's passing. Instead, her dead daughter Kate felt more like a broken keepsake. Like, awww, shucks, I dropped a piece of my favorite china. Her husband, the uber douche-tastic Magnus Lofting (whose name caused me to chuckle like a toddler with the farts), is equally ambivalent about his dead child. This killed the mood for me, stopped it cold, because I didn't give a shit one way or another if anything bad happened to this cast. Add to all that the fact that every woman in this novel is interchangeable. They all speak the same exact way, and love being protected by their big strong men.

Make no mistake about it, this book is dated as fuck. Women are treated like objects, animals are tortured and mutilated for shock value, and all the pop-culture references die on the wind unless you're a history buff who's studied 1960's London. Julia is loaded with exposition and adverbs, but that's because it's a product of its times. Pick up any literary horror novel from this era, Stephen King's work included, and you will find the same bloated prose.

Lastly, I will mention some rather laughable repetition toward the end of the book. Three times in one chapter, Straub writes: "Her vagina throbbed." Three times. In one chapter. Let that sink in. By the end of the chapter, Straub flips the script, presumably because he's noticed his repetition, and slightly changes the sentence to: "Her vagina ached." Bravo, you fucking wordsmith, you!

In summation: Peter Straub is a literary giant, and what I say about his books does not matter, but this early novel is, for the most part, a pain in the ass to read. A killer opening and ending are the only reasons to read this, but only if you're a fan of unhappy endings. Recommended for Peter Straub completionists alone.