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The Finkler Question

by Howard Jacobson

The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson
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  • Paperback:
    Oct 2010, 320 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Judy Krueger

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Power Reviewer Cloggie Downunder

fails to impress
The Finkler Question is the fourteenth book by Howard Jacobson, and winner of the 2010 Man Booker Prize. There are three main characters: Julian Treslove, who wants to be a Jew; Sam Finkler, a Jew who is ashamed of Jews; and Libor Sevcik, a Czech Jew who is grieving the loss of his wife. This unlikely trio have known one another for many years, and in the first part, each looks back on events in their lives. The second part concerns the events after Julian is mugged, he believes, for being a Jew, and introduces a new love interest for him, a Jewess names Hephzibah, someone he feels is his destiny. This novel is very slow-moving, there is very little in the way of plot and while some of the dialogue is clever, amusing or even thought-provoking, many of the characters are difficult to relate to. Perhaps to fully appreciate this book, one would need to be a Jewish intellectual, preferably a British one. Lots of Jewish angst, talk of foreskins, anti-Semitic violence and Holocaust denial. This Man Booker Prizewinner fails to impress.
Phyll

"Un-writer" wins Booker
Contrary to Howard Jacobson's contention that Australian readers prefer their fiction to be "unwritten" and "unfictional", I prefer a novel to be without haphazardness of structure and about people who stretch my boundaries of empathy. There's a tang of narcissism in Finkler. This puts Jacobson in the category of "un-writer" - the sort of author that he denigrated in his 1987 travel book "In the Land of Oz". I admire Jacobson's humour, but would have liked a few commas and other traditional grammatical devices to admire as well. Good luck to him with the pleasure of that lucrative reward. He should revisit Australia to do a witty update of his travel book, a genre in which he excels.
Power Reviewer Betty T

Too Much Worrying
I know it seems nearly everyone loved this book but I just could not get into it. It did reflect true life in that it reminded me of people I know who worry all the time about every little thing -- people who make everyone around them miserable with all their worrying. Not something I wanted to read though. I could not make a connection with the characters.
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