BookBrowse Reviews The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Finkler Question

by Howard Jacobson

The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson X
The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • Paperback:
    Oct 2010, 320 pages

  • Rate this book

Book Reviewed by:
Judy Krueger

Buy This Book

About this Book



The 2010 Booker Prize-winner - funny, furious, unflinching

There are three good reasons to read The Finkler Question:

  • To gain insight into the many views and disparate experiences of Jewish people in the 21st century.
  • To experience the almost perfect blend of humor and seriousness in the writing.
  • To enjoy a rich story about the human condition that includes friendship, love, religion, ambition, loss, aging and dying.

I have enjoyed just about every Booker Prize-winning novel I have read but during the build-up to the final announcement of this year's winner I was not betting on a book that was promoted as a humorous look at the many ways of being Jewish. In fact, having read and reviewed here at BookBrowse two of the books on the shortlist, The Long Song and Room, I was sure one of those would win. As it turned out I have been privileged to read a great novel I would otherwise have passed over.

A word about the title, which is in itself a joke but is not explained until a couple of chapters into the book - Julian Treslove, the wannabe Jew in the story, had never met a Jew until he met Sam Finkler at school. He was so impressed that he decided "Finkler…was a better name for them than Jew…It took away the stigma…(t)he minute you talked about the Finkler Question…you sucked out the toxins." Before I read those lines I was somewhat put off by the title, feeling that I didn't know what I was getting into.

What you will get into should you decide to read The Finkler Question is a look into modern-day anti-Semitism as it exists in Great Britain. British readers will undoubtedly see the book differently than readers in other countries, but any reader who has some awareness of current events regarding the Israeli/Arab conflict will get it. While political questions are part of the story, they play out through the interactions between male and female characters who are so well defined and uniquely human that you wonder at Howard Jacobson's level of wisdom and compassion for people.

I was never sure where the story was heading but I always wanted to find out. The characters became people I felt I had known for years. They alternately made me laugh and worry so that while I sensed each one was ultimately doomed, I was consistently entertained as they stumbled towards their individual ends.

Both British and American critics have heaped praise on The Finkler Question. Reactions from the reading public have been more mixed - at the time of writing, reviews on Amazon in the US and UK average 3 stars with an uncannily equal spread of ratings from 1 to 5. It appears that an interest in, or some knowledge of Jews, anti-Semitism and Israel predisposes readers to a positive experience, but does not guarantee one. On balance, I think it is reasonably safe to say that most adventurous readers of literary fiction who also have a sense of humor will be pleased.

Published in hardcover in the UK in August 2010, and in paperback in the USA in October 2010.

Reviewed by Judy Krueger

This review is from the November 17, 2010 issue of BookBrowse Recommends. Click here to go to this issue.

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access, become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Speak No Evil
    Speak No Evil
    by Uzodinma Iweala
    Young Nigerian American writer Uzodinma Iweala is fast becoming known as a powerful chronicler of ...
  • Book Jacket: Winter
    by Ali Smith
    "God was dead; to begin with." This first sentence of Winter perfectly sets up the dreamy journey ...
  • Book Jacket: A Land of Permanent Goodbyes
    A Land of Permanent Goodbyes
    by Atia Abawi

    When you're a refugee, everyone has lost, at least for the time being... And the journey ...

  • Book Jacket: Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions
    Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions
    by Mario Giordano
    Munich matron and self-described worldly sophisticate, Isolde Oberreiter, has decided to retire to a...

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Anatomy of a Miracle
    by Jonathan Miles

    A stunning novel that offers an exploration of faith, science and the meaning of life.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions
    by Mario Giordano

    A charming, bighearted novel starring Auntie Poldi, Sicily's newest amateur sleuth.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win The Balcony

The Balcony
by Jane Delury

A century-spanning novel-in-stories of a French village brimming with compassion, natural beauty, and unmistakable humanity.


Word Play

Solve this clue:

One N U G

and be entered to win..

Books that     

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.