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Customer Review

12 of 18 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars woeful, 14 Jan. 2011
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This review is from: The Finkler Question (Hardcover)
A terrible book. unedited (numerous basic spelling errors, before we get to the characterisation that repeatedly falls apart). uninteresting (largely because of the author's desperation to crowbar 'funny' material in wherever possible). unbelievable (none of the characters' situations make sense on even a basic level - for instance, one of them works as a celebrity lookalike, able to impersonate Brad Pitt and Colin Firth - who not only look nothing alike, but it's also a job nobody's ever made a full-time wage from - yet he manages to make enough money to not only live in a desirable part of North London but to be able to take both his sons on holiday to Italy). unfunny (only one decent gag in the whole thing, about a blogger who is a literal 'wanker', and even that doesn't work since it undoes any kind of realism - one of the main characters is meant to hang around with him - i know what HJ is trying to do, saying his desire for fame has blinded him to his mates, but it just doesn't work). politically fraudulent (antizionists are given a really hard time, zionists are much more 'rounded', and antizionism is pathologised as either entirely about 'father issues' or it's just outright jew-hatred). oh and despite HJ clearly wanting to create a realist depiction of London in 2009, in this novel it's a place where Jewish teenagers are routinely stabbed in the eyes purely on the basis of their Jewishness. HJ doth protest too much. You can either be realist, or not, and HJ tries to be both.

but most importantly, the book doesn't work as a novel. no reader in their right minds would care what happened to any of the utterly tedious main characters; and jacobson can't help himself either, inserting more or less totally perfect female characters later on to - well, to deliver Howard Jacobson columns as speeches.

If you're looking for a novel that's in any way elucidatory about contemporary British Jewishness, don't come here - all we learn is that, gosh, jews are human beings too and jewishness is a complex issue, and all antizionists are either messed up in the head or are just jew-haters. That's genuinely the sum total of Jacobson's ideas on the issue.

I don't know what's more embarrassing - that Jacobson thought this was actually a novel instead of a few poorly-thought-through, unfunny vignettes - or that the booker panel decided it was even worth shortlisting.

as for its being a book about grief - it isn't.

do not bother reading this - certainly don't buy it.
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