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Who's Sorry Now [Paperback]

Howard Jacobson
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Book Description

3 April 2003
Marvin Kreitman, the luggage baron of South London, lives for sex. Or at least he lives for women. At present he loves four women - his mother, his wife Hazel, and his two daughters - and is in love with five more. Charlie Merriweather, on the other hand, nice Charlie, loves just the one woman, also called Charlie, the wife with whom he has been writing children's books and having nice sex for twenty years. Once a week the two friends meet for a Chinese lunch, contriving never quite to have the conversation they would like to have - about fidelity and womanising, and which makes you happier. Until today. It is Charlie who takes the dangerous step of asking for a piece of Marvin's disordered life, but what follows embroils them all, the wives no less than the husbands. And none of them will ever be the same again.

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Who's Sorry Now + No More Mr Nice Guy + The Act of Love
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Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; New Ed edition (3 April 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099437376
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099437376
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.1 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 766,015 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

An award-winning writer and broadcaster, Howard Jacobson was born in Manchester, brought up in Prestwich and was educated at Stand Grammar School in Whitefield, and Downing College, Cambridge, where he studied under F. R. Leavis. He lectured for three years at the University of Sydney before returning to teach at Selwyn College, Cambridge. His novels include The Mighty Walzer (winner of the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize), Kalooki Nights (longlisted for the Man Booker Prize), the highly acclaimed The Act of Love and, most recently, the Man Booker Prize 2010-winning The Finkler Question. Howard Jacobson lives in London.

Product Description

Amazon Review

Howard Jacobson is widely acclaimed as a humorous writer. Who’s Sorry Now? is exceedingly funny but for all the bubbling wit, word play and satirical gibes it is infused with darkness. If his last book, the semi-autobiographical The Mighty Walzer, was Philip Roth’s Portnoy's Complaint relocated to 1950s Manchester, then this is possibly Jacobson's American Pastoral.

Who’s Sorry Now? centres on Marvin Kreitman, a middle-aged Jewish Lothario, a man with a "nostalgic affection for many of the old discredited categories of masculine swagger". He was once a promising young academic but somehow ended up following in the footsteps of his father--a curmudgeon who hawked purses at a street market in Balham. Now the owner of a thriving leather goods business, Kreitman has a wife and two grown-up children, an elegant house in south London and a string of mistresses. Each week he meets his old university friend Charlie Merriweather for a Chinese meal in Soho. Charlie is a big, puppy dog of a man, brutalised by his public schooling but seemingly (if a little soppily) devoted to his wife and family. The Merriweathers enjoy "nice sex" and write children’s books. To indulge in a vaguely pertinent culinary metaphor, Charlie is sweet to Marvin’s sour. However, on this particular day Charlie suggests that they should swap wives--so far so 70s sitcom. Before Marvin can persuade Charlie against the idea, Nyman, a muscle-toned cyclist, runs him down in the street. Nyman is the novel’s malevolent force. Following the crash, this apparent nobody, an enigmatic wannabe television star, weasels his way into their lives and triggers a series of unexpected couplings, leaving Kreitman’s daughter to enquire at one point: "Who’s doing what to whom this time?"

Jacobson examines sexual obsession and infidelity in ribald, if poignant detail. However, it is his exploration of the painful scars left by family life that make this book both riveting and, certainly at its end, disturbing. Although it is littered with wonderfully amusing barbs against the cult of personality, installation art and even backpacker yarn The Beach, there is probably more tragedy than comedy in this remarkable novel.--Travis Elborough --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


Howard Jacobson is the author of six novels and four works of non-fiction. His last novel, The Mighty Walzer, won the Everyman Wodehouse Award for comic writing.

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
3.8 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
17 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Very Model of a Masterpiece 8 Sep 2002
It's immediately easy to see why this was longlisted for the Booker and Jacobson's earlier comedy of sexual manners, No More Mister Nice Guy, wasn't - it's longer, denser, more intricate and frankly less out-and-out entertaining. The theme - an eternal for Jacobson - is similar: "men and women, women and men - it'll never work. Or will it?" The novel has two protagonists (because, even though they both have wives who play equally important parts in the book, with Jacobson it's the men who tell the tale, as always), Marvin Kreitman - "the luggage baron of South London" - and Charlie Merriweather - half of the husband-and-wife gestalt-entity children's author C.C. Merriweather (his wife is also called Charlie).

Charlie is faithful, if not uxorious - he has never slept with a woman other than his wife, but the question of what it would be like nags at him constantly. The reason it nags at him is because Kreitman (and this anomaly is never resolved in the book - Kreitman always referred to by surname, Charlie by first name, perhaps to make the one "good" and the other "bad") has five mistresses, and appears to be having the time of his life. Or is he? The two friends have never adequately discuss the relative merits of fidelity and promiscuity; indeed Charlie feels they have been spending the last twenty years avoiding the issue. And so he suggests they swap roles.

Don't get excited. It's not "Run for Your Wife!" If it's filthy sex and three-in-a-bed romps you're after, go back to No More Mister Nice Guy (which does it all, and more, hilariously and brilliantly). Who's Sorry Now?, as the title suggests, is an altogether more thoughtful piece, and the plot itself - such as it is - takes place almost in the background.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Howard Jacobson 20 May 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Who's Sorry Now Hard backed version. Used, but in beautiful condition and well wrapped. Will use seller again.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars TOO THOUGHTFUL BY FAR 4 Feb 2007
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I agree with reviewer John Self that this is not typical Jacobson and that was my main disappointment. It is full of long passages on the state of the relationship between men and women and, frankly, all the characters are pretty repulsive. Not particularly funny and that's what you expect from Jacobson, so I've had to mark it down. Not the book to start with if you want to see what a great coemdy writer he is. 'No More Mr Nice Guy' should be your first stop. Sorry, Howard, but if we want thoughtful Jewish there are plenty of writers who have already filled that market.
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6 of 15 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars I'm sorry for reading this book 27 May 2003
Really disapointed, well, to be fair, I can't say I was ever excited in the first place. I nearly stopped reading the book about a quarter of the way through, it just bored me.
Lots of airy fairy prose, it seems not to have the more linear narrative I expected.
But, each to their own, you may love it!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.8 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars I'm sorry now 11 Oct 2013
By Jeff Brody - Published on Amazon.com
Jacobson has many gifts ... Finkler was a great book. But discursive and clever don't mean squat if you have nothing to say, and if you say nothing without humor, and at length. "Who's Sorry Now" has nothing to say, and it takes forever to say it, and it's not funny. Jacobson has written one very good-to-great book. It's not this one.
3.0 out of 5 stars Disspassionate Witness Deflates Emotional Impact of Infidelity 13 Jan 2013
By Paige Turner - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Read this because I enjoyed The Finkler Question so much. However, it disappoints. Wordy occassionally drily humorous commentary promises a close and amusing look at two contemporary British marriages. It never seems to take flight as characters remain one-dimensional (wives Hazel and Chas for example) , or cyphers ( Charlie and Nyman) whose sexual modus operandii substitute for personality.

Kreitman, the protagonist, remains trapped by his conflicted view of women, his desires, and his reputation, galvanized to inaction, unable to connect fully with either the people he cares about, or his moral precepts. Jacobson`s narrator observes and reports and often analyzes, but never really invites the reader to explore as the tale unfolds. We remain as disengaged as the group in the novel. As a porrtrait of contemporary marriage and sexuality it`s a bleak picture.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Comic novel with a deep social conscience 21 Jan 2005
By Reader from Singapore - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Unknown Binding
Howard Jacobson is a brilliant comic writer just waiting for that breakout novel to catapult him into the ranks of young promising talents who get their first exposure to the reading public on the strength of making the Booker shortlist. Well, "Who's Sorry Now (WSN)" made the longlist a couple of years ago but inexplicably got no further. That's a real shame because WSN should have been that breakout novel. It's hilarious and an out and out winner in the best English tradition of comic writing. Crisply written, hugely funny, razor sharp in its humour, deadly in its comic timing, yet terribly sad in its observation of the state of contemporary life in England.

Those with an inherently biased view that comic writing has to be lightweight and frivolous should read WSN and then reconsider. Such is the deceptive modesty and slyness of Jacobson's aim that before each laughter dies on your lips - usually after another of Marvin's or Charlie's pathetic antics - you begin to discern the taste of bile in your mouth. The Kreitmans and Merriweathers are or think they're good friends until the men agree on a spouse swapping experiment to cure one of them of boredom born of envy and fidelity. The contrasting lifestyles and social milieu of the couples soon find the experiment taking them to places they never imagined. Happiness and bliss from their new coupling soon dissipates, and here's when the plot takes a surprising turn. Jacobson's deftness and sureness of touch shines through in the spying sequence that ends on a deliciously jaw dropping note ! The novel winds down dispensing a general sense of poetic justice, though not everyone comes off safely. Some emerge with more than a scratch. The title's message is reserved deservedly for Marvin.

WSN isn't all about sex and infidelity. The relevance of the family as a social unit, class-based lifestyles and cultural snobbery all come under Jacobson's cleared-eyed scrutiny. Naturally, the verdict isn't encouraging.

WSN isn't funny ha-ha. It's a comic novel with a deep social conscience and that's a rarity.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dark-black comedy 3 Aug 2007
By Raphael Rubin - Published on Amazon.com
Jacobson is a genius. I read WSN after his recent masterpiece Kalooki Nights. Both novels are the blackest comedies imbued with high purpose. The big puzzle: why are Jacobon's books not widely read in the U.S.?? Anyone else across the pond we don't know about??
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