countdown boutiques-francophones Beauty home Kindle Explore the Vinyl LP Records Store sports Tools

Customer Reviews

3.1 out of 5 stars
3.1 out of 5 stars
Your rating(Clear)Rate this item

There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.

on November 29, 2010
The Finkler Question is at times very funny, while also leading the reader to very serious considerations. For that alone it is worth reading. As someone wholly ignorant of Jewish culture and tradition, I found the interactions between the characters (who are all somewhat interesting in their own right) very intriguing. However, I couldn't help but think this ignorance prevented me from enjoying all the cultural references of the book, all the little quirks and all the jokes.

Why three stars? Why not four or five? the problem is that it is essentially a plot-less novel. It is character-driven, conversation-driven. The most enjoyable moments are the scenes of conversation between the three protagonists. These scenes also provide the most food for thought. As a rule I wouldn't say that the absence of plot is necessarily a bad thing in a character-driven novel, but in The Finkler Question I found myself hoping for plot, hoping for something interesting to happen to one of the characters as the story evolved. And the thing is, it always seemed as if something interesting was about to happen, so I ended up always a bit disappointed with the pettiness of the actual events.

Worthy of the Prize? I don't know. It's not a grandiose book, but it certainly isn't a bad one either. For one thing, it made me want to talk about the issues it raised with friends and colleagues, and that's more than I can say of most novels I read.
0Comment| 7 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
"Who is like the Lord our God, Who dwells on high, Who humbles Himself to behold The things that are in the heavens and in the earth?" -- Psalm 113:5-6 (NKJV)

Calling The Finkler Question a funny book is like calling Hamlet a humorous play ... just because it has the gravediggers commenting on a skull. There certainly is humor in The Finkler Question, humor designed to soften what otherwise would be too much angst and gloom for many readers to sustain.

So if you are looking for a good old belly laugh, look elsewhere.

If you want to learn more about identity, this is your book. Howard Jacobson has succeeded in providing the kind of multi-layer story that delivers new insights each time it is reread or thought about again. While on the surface the main story line is about a life-changing event that causes a Gentile to see himself differently, the application of that story is much broader.

While I'm sure many people who are Jewish or know much about Jewish life will point out the inaccuracies in what is portrayed, I think that they will miss what I take to be the author's point in choosing to do so: identity looks much different from without than from within. For that reason, Jewish people will probably "get" more of the book's intended message ... to the extent that they don't take the details as an attempt to portray their own lives and beliefs.

The book also has much to say about the forms of identity that form our foundation, contrasting identity through birth, connection to others, relative to others, and in contrast to others. Through the story's development, it's clear that Mr. Jacobson favors seeking a firmer foundation based on a sense of the uniqueness that defines a person.

It's not an easy read. You have to chew on it. I took the book in small doses and felt rewarded for doing so over four weeks. Stop whenever you've got a mouthful and don't start again until that mouthful is swallowed and digested.

Before you leave the book behind, reflect on who you are? Who is that person?

Bravo, Mr. Jacobson!
0Comment| One person found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
Julian Treslove and Sam Finkler are old school friends. Despite very different lives, they've never quite lost touch with each other or with their former teacher, Libor Sevcik. Sevcik and Finkler are recently widowed, and one night the three of them dine together at Sevcik's apartment.
During the evening, they reminisce about the past: their lives before the complicating influences of relationships and children. Treslove is not a widower, but has had a number of failed relationships, wonders whether it is better to go through life without knowing happiness rather than experiencing the pain of loss.

On his way home, Treslove hesitates outside a shop window, and is mugged by a woman. And one consequence of this attack is that Treslove's sense of identity is changed. From being a man who has observed and participated in life rather than experiencing it, he decides that he should covert to Judaism. He starts to learn Yiddish; he tries to understand the world from a Jewish perspective. In short, Treslove wants to belong.

There is a lot more to the story than this: Treslove's search for belonging seems fixed on Sam Finkler. Sam Finkler is the first Jew that Julian Treslove has ever met, and while he does not fit Treslove's stereotypical view, he (privately) calls all Jews `Finklers'. Finkler is successful, Treslove is not. Does Jewishness hold the key? Finkler and Sevcik have different views, but shared experiences. Treslove listens, and is envious.

`He wasn't even living his own life.'

There are a number of messages in this novel and it is clever, if not always comfortable, for Mr Jacobson to focus on Treslove's desire to be Jewish as a way of demonstrating the tensions between exclusion and belonging. Identity, we are reminded, is more than language and ritual. The superficiality of Treslove, the relative success of Finkler and the educated worldliness of Sevcik offer very different perspectives of life.

The writing in this novel is superb and while the characters are not especially likeable, there is plenty of food for thought in the way their lives and interactions are portrayed.

`History's lesson is that bullies ultimately defeat themselves.'

Jennifer Cameron-Smith
0Comment| 2 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on February 1, 2011
Three old guys talking about what it is to be Jewish. One seems happy to be Jewish, one seems to find fault with it, and another is not Jewish but wants to be. That's pretty much the whole story. No real change occurred after the mugging, which the book description would have you believe. It's just page after page about three guys talking, thinking, and wondering about being Jewish. Another book that the literary elite find brilliant, but the regular Joe - not so much.
0Comment| 6 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
TOP 1000 REVIEWERon November 8, 2010
It is funny!
It is also deep, thought provoking, profoundly human, insightful, and brutally honest. This novel is humour at its best, where the laugh is just a prelude to an extraordinary - and not without pain - plunge into the souls of the characters, which leaves you pondering for days really serious issues. Jacobson dissects the characters, the Jews, and society - individually and collectively - tackling their identities, fears, thoughts, ambitions, politics, culture and religion, while weaving an impeccable narration through elegant and simple prose.
Since I finished reading it, I like it more as the days go by.
0Comment| 8 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on April 18, 2016
Mostly for Brits with a literature degree or the literati ... I should say away from prize winning literature ... my Brit upbringing didn't help ... Low score because I didn't get it🤔
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on August 13, 2012
The author has established himself as Britain’s foremost contemporary Jewish writer of fiction. So expect this novel to be about Jews and Jewishness; non-Jews who think they are Jews; and Jews who wish they were n’t. Going back a few decades, we would have had to compare this work with those of Malamud and Bellow, both of whom are much more serious writers. Today’s comparisons have to be with Roth and Richler, although the latter is now dead. Richler can occasionally be serious, and Roth occasionally light-hearted, but where they differ from Jacobson ( at least the author of THIS particular novel) is that their persona have flesh and blood, whereas Finkler and friends are cardboard characters whose ideas, ambitions, and motivation are far less important that the witticisms they utter, much as in Oscar Wilde’s plays. They are the pegs on which the author can hang his brilliant dialogue that is about as profound as Monty Python and the Goons. What unites him with Roth and Richler is the searing intensity of the spotlight he turns upon his characters’ genitals and what they do with them, rather than upon their hearts, minds and souls.
The springboard for the action, or rather what substitutes for it, is the mugging of a gentile friend of two Jewish writers by an unknown woman. Her motive, he is convinced, is that she has mistaken him for a Jew. The whole notion is superficial, and the characters likewise. Thus, while hugely entertaining, it teaches us very little about a topic that deserves to be taken with a good deal more seriousness. If the object of the exercise was to satirize Jews who erroneously believe in their own victimhood, or those who victimize them (deliberately or erroneously), then Jacobson has failed in my opinion, and I am left with two conflicting irritations: one because I feel let down, and another because of the illicit pleasure the book gave me. The main theme of the book is Jewish shame, and the lengths to which these ASHAmed (sic!) Jews go to expiate the sins of other Jews who are the cause of their shame (Zionists, Israelis, religious Jews, but never adulterous or fornicating Jews since it is to the ranks of the latter that they belong). Superficially, one would guess that the author is not one of these ASHAmed Jews and that he is satirizing them in his novel. But deep down, I am not so sure. He is certainly ASHAmed of something. How else can one explain a writer of such talent spending so many pages of obscenity on fetishes such as a Jew sitting day-after-day picking the skin of his penis in a vain attempt to restore the foreskin that his parents “stole” from his at birth. He seemingly cannot trust his ability to fashion a compelling novel from the lives of decent people who are not sex-crazed freaks.
0Comment| One person found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on February 9, 2011
If only this book was half as interesting as Jennifer's review, it would have been a treat.

The themes of The Finkler Question -- identity, belonging and so forth -- are ground down to such a dull edge as to thoroughly lose their appeal. The protagonist is thoroughly tiresome.

Howard Jacobson has been described as the UK's Mordecai Richler. It is a sorry comparison. Forget this book and, if you haven't already, pick up Barney's Version: it is a far more interesting, entertaining and accomplished book.
0Comment| 2 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on December 9, 2010
this has to be one of the most boring, navel gazing books I have yet to read. Not sure how the panel selected this as a prize winner, not by my standards.
0Comment| 5 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on April 18, 2016
Boring. Goes on and on about what it's like to be, or not be, jewish. Boring.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse

Need customer service? Click here