June In Her Spring - Colin MacInnes Australia, the 1950s. June is 16, rich, and ready to fall in love. at the annual gymkhana, she finds that love:
"June wasn't listening again, because she was watching a different boy who'd come into the marquee, wearing white slacks and a tennis shirt and a look of such anxiety and blind determination that she wanted to know what it was he intended to do. He was tall and lean, his hair was mouse-coloured, and his body as much as his face gave an impression of useless, lonely haughtiness. He walked quickly about the marquee, but stopping to stand and stare, gazing angrily and longingly at the guzzling lunchers as if he yearned for them to recognize him but defied them to do so."
and so begins an awkward but almost immediately passionate romance between June and the 17 year old Benjamin.

based upon the strength of his classic [b:Absolute Beginners|372556|Absolute Beginners|Colin MacInnes|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1327943670s/372556.jpg|3110964] - which is one of my absolutely adored favorite novels - i like to consider Colin MacInnes one of my favorite authors, and so over the years i've been slowly collecting and reading all of his works. i love his idiosyncratic writing style, his warmth and his verve, and i feel a real connection to both his curmudgeonly humanism and his open bisexuality. he's one of those authors i would have loved to have known.

June in Her Spring is his first work of fiction and, unfortunately, it shows. the novel does have plenty of strengths: it creates a vivid portrait of a particular time & place in Australia (with a first to me: snooty sheep farmers! huh); it includes many smart little snapshots of various supporting characters whose personalities and histories and aspirations are conveyed in the space of a few sentences; it captures that feeling of being young and wanting to live your dreams NOW NOW NOW; and it occasionally showcases MacInnes' skill at crafting prose and narratives that are loose, offbeat, herky-jerky, and tender yet tough-minded. the talent is clearly present - although at this point, not quite fully formed.

but the debits outweigh the credits. perhaps MacInnes was too close to his subject matter? June herself is often charming but also rather unpleasantly bland; Benjamin is occasionally sympathetic but for the most part he is a somewhat repugnant and unappealing character to be stuck with for the length of the novel. two key characters - June's feckless older brother and Benjamin's controlling guardian - are portrayed in such a repellent way that their every appearance gave me a feeling of nausea. but most egregiously of all is the distinctly hysterical take on - in the words of the back cover synopsis - "the heritage of madness and homosexuality which would destroy their innocent love". ugh! the hysteria just became too much for me, and when combined with a surprisingly sour and abrupt ending, i was left with a lot of irritation and dissatisfaction after reading the last page. ah well - can't win 'em all, i guess. sad sigh.