Set in 1920 Halifax, “Portrait of Julia” follows Julia Robertson, the young war widow featured in the bestselling book “Burden of Desire.” In his fourth novel, Robert MacNeil, longtime anchor and executive editor of the PBS NewsHour, Julia ventures out into a new world, filled with radical ideas. “It’s making personal the ideas that interest me about that period,” MacNeil told chief arts correspondent Jeffrey Brown.
Julia travels to London, Paris and the South of France as she discovers new ways of thinking, but MacNeil is very much interested in Canada after World War I. He explains that it was the Canadian involvement in the war that allowed for a Canadian identity. “Burden of Desire” was set at the time of the Halifax explosion and this continuation of the story starts just three years later.