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Solomon Gursky Was Here [Paperback]

Mordecai Richler
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
List Price: CDN$ 20.00
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Book Description

June 24 2005 0143051458 978-0143051459

Moses Berger is very young when he first hears the name that will obsess him and drive him on a quest across Canada and Europe. His life becomes consumed with unravelling the secrets from the startling, almost mythical life of a man and family shrouded in lies.

Ranging from the underworld of nineteenth-century London, through the Franklin expedition to the Arctic, to the Prohibition years on the prairies and the Eastern Townships of Quebec, Solomon Gursky Was Here is a grand, uncommonly rich tale from one of Canada's best storytellers.

Frequently Bought Together

Solomon Gursky Was Here + St. Urbain's Horseman + Penguin Modern Classics Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz
Price For All Three: CDN$ 41.32

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Product Description


'Acutely provocative ... His most ambitious and most Canadian book.' -- David Bezmozgis

'The wit, depth, and wickedness of this resonant novel suggest a happy synthesis of Dickens, Malcolm Lowry, and Philip Roth ... This is a very fine work.' -- The Times (London)

About the Author

Mordecai Richler (1931-2001) wrote ten novels; numerous screenplays, essays, children's books; and several works of non-fiction. He gained international acclaim with The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, which was later made into a movie. During his career, he was the recipient of dozens of literary awards, including two Governor General's Awards, The Giller Prize, and the Commonwealth Writers Prize. Mordecai Richler was made a Companion of the Order of Canada in 2001.

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Customer Reviews

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great Canadian story Nov. 14 2006
By Adriana
This book was a real-eye opener for me. At first I couldn't quite catch the message of this book. It seemed bizarre, all of the stories happening at different times, a wealthy Jewish family with bootlegger roots, the Franklin expedition where kosher pickles were found, I was going crazy!!! It was chosen by my book club and after going to the meeting, I got it! And now I love this book. It is a complicated book, a lot of stories intertwined, a lot of Canadian history behind it, mixed with fiction. I am not Canadian but I think myself closer to this country now that I have read this book. The book is as vast as Canada as the back cover says! I will suggest that anyone reading this book reads it with some kind of guide, either reviews or people, unless you know the background of this Jewish family and where the story comes from.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Intricate, Intellectual, Sardonic, Complex Oct. 1 2011
By Troy Parfitt TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Mordecai Richler's penultimate novel, and certainly his most ambitious, Solomon Gursky Was Here is a yarn spun around the Gursky brothers - Bernard, Morrie, and Solomon - kings of a whiskey empire forged from bootlegging, millionaires many times over, and based on Canada's Bronfman family. The brood constitute the grandchildren of one Ephraim Gursky, a Jew and sole survivor of the ill-fated Franklin Expedition, an 1846 attempt at unmasking the Northwest Passage.

Ephraim cuts a trickster figure; a Holy man and polyglot who has been self-employed as both thief and forger. In the Arctic, confronted by the Inuit, he calls forth an "eclipse," thus saving his hide and catapulting to the echelon of deity. He establishes a Jewish sect whose offspring sport parkas with Orthodox markings. He learns Latin, and, in one of the book's more bizarre, and irrelevant, sections, gives the business to the instructor's rigidly Christian wife. Glimpses of Ephraim's life come to us via Solomon, which come to us via Moses Berger, a scholarly alcoholic and philanderer who becomes obsessed with Solomon Gursky after he's killed in a plane crash in the North, perhaps because of some mechanical tampering at the hands of his brother, Bernard.

But is Solomon really dead? We're not certain, and the complex, time-skipping narrative, interlaced with snippets of Yiddish, machinations of bootlegging on the Prairies, Inuit myth, Judaism, a palm-greasing scene set against the backdrop of a fishing expedition in northern New Brunswick, references to Carl Jung, descriptions of nineteenth century London, analyses of human greed, perversion, and corruption, and a thousand other subjects, themes, connections, symbols, asides, etc., takes on a sort of mystery element.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Montage of Rascals and Ragamuffins Aug. 31 2013
By Murray
This book is an eclectic montage of characters. It is a character driven book and the plot seems to play second fiddle to all the various scoundrels, princes and sidekicks who inhabit these pages. About a Jewish family that immigrates to Canada and grows up in Montreal, it paints a picture of Jewish culture in the 1970s.The border between fact and fiction is cloudy as Richler takes aim at a certain Montreal Jewish family that started out as rum runners and grew into a distillery empire.

The plot, what little there is of it, is simply about a writer who is researching the Gursky family for a biography. He stumbles through several life times of strange characters and ragamuffins. The weirder the better and the rogues make for a interesting read.

This book is entertaining, but I was hoping for something more from a master like Richler. I found the combination of immorality and religion a disturbing pair. I strained myself to think that a subplot could be the love of god for his chosen people despite the ne'er-do-well nature of some of the rascals depicted in this book. Still, it was a good read and a picture into the Montreal Jewish culture.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A masterpiece Oct. 5 2011
Mordecai Richler's "Solomon Gursky was Here" is a family saga, an interesting and not very well known piece of Canadian history and a portrait of Montreal's high society. Moses Berger is on long and tortuous journey researching the life of Solomon Gursky, who is the wisest, ablest and most resourceful of the Gursky brothers and who dies in a plane carsh when he is in his early thirties. This journey take Moses to different places and continents and brings him in touch with all sorts of interesting people who have known Solomon Gursky at one point or another.

The structure of the novel is very interesting. It is a long series of unfolding scenes with later ones informing and shedding light on earlier ones. Richler is undoubtedly a master of his craft and his language is of the highest literary kind. It is not an easy read but a rewarding one nevertheless. If you liked his two novels "Barney's Version" and "The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz", both of which were turned into movie pictures, this one will just captivate you. I know that these brief lines will not do justice to this very complex novel which masterfully evokes the mythical spirit of the Canadian North but I hope this review would be helpful
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 5.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
5.0 out of 5 stars Well I' from Montreal, and not the Montreal of ... July 5 2014
By Klaus Moritz - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Well I' from Montreal, and not the Montreal of the found in races but that of the immigrants from all corners of the world. And I was completely engroosed in curiosity.
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