Author: Howard Jacobson
I picked up this book only after it won the Man Booker Prize for 2010. Supposedly Jacobson is the first humor writer to win the coveted prize. The plot is setup in modern London with the protagonist Julian Treslove and his two friends Sam Finkler and Libor Sevick. Libor used to be the teacher of Sam & Julian; while both Libor and Sam were widowers Julian was yet to find love of his life and marriage and wife.
Julian was working for Radio 3 of BBC, where he resigned after being absolutely disillusioned. The lines like “Would anyone notice if my programmes weren’t aired?’ he wrote in his letter of resignation. He received no reply” simply crack one up. Julian despite being a non Jew he found his company in, Libor and Sam, two Jews mourning the death of their wives.
The life of Julian was changed after the day he was a part of an anti-semite attack as he was mistaken for being a Jew. The story traverse through the life of the three friends with the grief of the two and loneliness of three; the book goes deep down in the philosophy and debate of Jews and Anti-Semites. The story captures the feelings of Jews and a person stuck amidst number of Jews around him regarding multiple things related to usual Jew customs, Israel –Palestine dispute, Anti-Semite culture too well.
The pace of the story is very slow, but the narrative makes up for the lack of it, though the book is not the usual comedy with raunchy one-liners but a subtle background with an over all them with the tragedy imbibed with the protagonists. The characters are very carefully and well built over the progress of story and a perfect portrayal of emotions.
The only place where the book lacks is the Jew angle, for people who are not aware of the Jewish culture and terminology. A lot of parts of the book where the author goes into details of the Zionism it would be difficult to understand and leaves the reader baffled. Also due to the slow pace of the book it requires concentration while reading, if one is not enjoying the subtle humor then the book appears to be drab.
Summary: A good read, with subtle humor; a treat for the literary admirers to read with near perfect characterization and impeccable narrative.