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Solomon Gursky Was Here: Penguin Modern Classics Paperback – Jun 28 2005

4.7 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 560 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Canada (June 28 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143051458
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143051459
  • Product Dimensions: 13.1 x 3.6 x 19.7 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 431 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #121,243 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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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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Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback
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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