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on February 3, 2012
Joshua Then And Now is a compelling novel penned by Canada's most intriguing writer. Joshua now is in hospital with broken limbs and a battered visage. Journalists are snooping around his house looking for tips. Joshua is a local writer, a celebrity of sorts, and there is rumour he has done something illegal, has had a split with his wife, and has been involved in a homosexual affair. Scandal is in the air. His father, Reuben, a former prize fighter (and, as we later find out, an amateur Bible scholar - despite being Jewish) keeps the reporters at bay; he doesn't seem concerned.

The novel flashes back to Joshua then, from his childhood in Montreal to his days spent on Ibiza to the months and weeks prior to his apparent accident - and what a ride it is. Richler fans should delight in the bits about Ibiza, having fun wondering just how much of it is autobiographical. We know Richler lived on the Spanish isle, and we know he had trouble with a German named Mueller (Dr. Dr. Mueller in the novel; in Austria each doctorate deserves a title) and that he had to leave suddenly, like Joshua Shapiro did. We also see Richler's imagination flowing and spinning from his summer home at Lake Memphremagog, featured in Barney's Version. And we see variations on Richler's classic characters: the blue-blooded Hornbys, "rotten to the core" and cognizant of it, Jack Trimble: a man who scraped and clawed his way to the top, ignored by Westmount's and McGill's elite until they needed him to make money for them; Reuben: Joshua's ostensibly dopey but street-savvy (former boxer, Bible quoting, Labatt's drinking) father, Joshua's sex-starved Jewish mother, uncle Oscar: forced to drive a cab at age 69, Joshua's brother-in-law, a 40-year old rich brat (one of the Hornbys) who we think has been horribly framed.

This book really drew me in, but then I got lost a little in the middle. The flashback sequences are not dated, but like with Richler's subsequent Solomon Gursky Was Here it's not so much a matter of figuring out when the time-shift is but why. However, unlike the weightier and more literary Solomon Gursky Was Here, Joshua Then And Now didn't make me wonder if Richler knew where he was going and if his descriptive wanderings weren't inspired by too many glasses of scotch. In Joshua, the storyline straightens out, right on cue, and you see the method in the madness. At page 200, I was thinking, `This might be one of his weaker ones,' but by p. 300, I was marvelling.

What a shame Mordecai Richler is no longer with us. There is no one in Canada writing books like his nowadays, and there is one less erudite social critic to lampoon the politically correct CBC, insincere politicians, the politics of special pleading, or other Canadian silliness. Richler possessed a humour, wit, intellect, and irony that just isn't there now - and he was a better writer than just about anyone who wins the Giller Prize these days. They just don't make `em like that anymore.

4.5 stars, rounded up to 5.

Troy Parfitt is the author of Why China Will Never Rule the World
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon February 7, 2003
This book is classic Mordecai Richler:
His main character, Joshua, is a Montreal Jew who is opinionated, cynical and comes from a seedy background: and yet, is able to survive, become successful and marries into a well-off family that have their own set of closet skeletons. The story has many interesting twists and emotions vary from the serious, sad or sometimes, to the very funny. Like many of Richler's characters, there is a gutsy determination, a sense of purposeful indignation about Joshua that you can admire and identify with.
The novel is well written and easy to read and uses sporadic explicit language.This is sure to please anyone who has enjoyed other Richler books such as "Barney's Version" or "St. Urbain's Horseman". A recommended read!
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on July 22, 1999
Through a suspenseful pattern of dramatic flashbacks, Mordecai Richler reassembles the shattered life of one Joshua Shapiro. His father an honest crook, his mother an erotic dancer, Joshua has overcome his inauspicious beginnings in the Jewish Ghetto of Montreal to become a celebrated television writer. But middle-aged Joshua is not a happy man. Incapacitated by a freak accident, anguished by the dissapearance of his wife, Joshua is beleaguered by the press and tormented by the ghosts of his youth. A racous, opinionated, and tendewr novel, Joshua Then and Now is a memorable excursion into Richler's comic universe.
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on November 11, 1998
This book is definately my favourite out of all Richler's books. He uses his wonderful humour throughout the book. The main focus of this book is jokes. Richler has the reader laughing for the whole book. You should definately read this book!
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on May 16, 2000
This was the first Richler novel I've read and it was wonderful! There were characters and scenarios so well drawn that I could not help myself from laughing out loud. It is one of the few novels I wished never ended.
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on July 19, 2015
Well received and on time.
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on April 3, 2000
I am currently reading this novel, and so far, I find it interesting. Joshua is a complex character. He achieved his ambition, and at the same time, he is dwelling on the past. It is quite unfortunate to see a character who has achieved what can be called "success" and at the same time not happy with himself. I think Joshua Then And Now is a funny book, and I highly recommend it for anybody who wants to learn more about the comic world of Mordecai Richler.
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on September 19, 2001
The novel is definitely funny. I had the strange luck to read it during my internship at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Montreal, which is where scenes of Joshua's infirm wife took place. Richler easily gets me to belly-laugh. BUT, part of his humor is based on homophobia. Joshua is mistaken for gay and his mother enthusiastically and misguidely marches with PFLAG. I think such humour is of the "lowest common denominator" variety. In this as in other books of his, Richler relies on gay people, or misidentified straight people for a cheap laugh, which I don't appreciate.The rest of the book is great and I recommend it.
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on January 11, 2004
this book is a most difficult read. it is almost like a history lesson. the whole idea of going back and forth from persent to past, made it a most trying excersise to read. if you are a casual reader from age 17 and lower; do not attempt to read this. this was the hardest, most boring and most challenging book i have yet to come across. read with caution and lots of time ahead of you.
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