Juno and Juliet

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Juno and Juliet is Julian Gough’s first novel, and despite its title, and the importance of Juno to her twin, the main character is Juliet Taylor, the narrator, who is at pains to document, in her and her sister’s first year at the University of County Galway, her initiation into the world beyond their home in Tipperary.

This world, from Juliet’s point of view, includes studies in literature, especially a tutorial in Modern English given by David Hennessey, a young professor, and a social life featuring the twins’ relationships with men—usually when Juliet, for her part, is drunk.

Juno begins an affair with Michael Fowler, a set designer, and Juliet finds herself falling in love with David Hennessey after having dinner with him in his dying father’s seaside house. But conflicts arise when Juliet is rejected by David in the name of the student-teacher bond, and she sleeps, much to her chagrin, with Michael Fowler.

Though she forgives her sister, Juno undergoes a sour time with her lover, while at the same time she tries to deal with the obscene letters an anonymous person has been sending her. After the closing night of an amateur production of Samuel Beckett’s Endgame, in which she plays the character Clove, she is raped by Conrad Hayes, the has-been resident writer at the university who, it turns out, sent the letters.

David Hennessey, displaying a chivalric courage, and Juliet, displaying her customary loyalty to her sister, confront Conrad with Juno, demanding a written apology, which, in despair over his behavior, he grants, then jumps to his death from his office window.

This death is the novel’s climax, and it leads to Juno’s renewed intimacy with Michael, and to David Hennessey accepting Juliet as his lover, which she insists to the reader is the happy ending her account deserves.