Quick Book Review: The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson (DNF)
April 29, 2012 18 Comments
One of the members of my book group had bought this book but had not get round to reading it, so she suggested it for our next meeting. I was curious about the book and the others were happy to read it too, and so we did.
Or at least, I read until about 2/3 of the book and then I had enough of it.
This book is about a middle-aged man, Julian Treslove. He used to work for the BBC but now he is a celebrity look-alike. His best friend back from when they were young is Sam Finkler, and together they befriended their mentor Libor Sevcik. Both Finkler and Sevcik are Jewish and Julian has always been fascinated by their Jewishness.
One night, on the way back from a party at Sevcik’s house, Julian is attacked and robbed in the street by a woman. The woman says something to him which sounds like “You, Jules!” (his mother’s nickname for him) but could also have been “You, Jew.” He becomes obsessed with the idea that he might look Jewish and investigates whether he has Jewish ancestors.
Sam Finkler, meanwhile, doesn’t live much of a Jewish life. In fact, he joins the ASHamed Jews, a group of people who are not happy about what is happening in Israel.
I didn’t get further than about 2/3 in the book, as the whole obsession of Treslove with Jewishness was getting too much for me. And that while I loved Chaim Potok‘s books that are absolutely full of Jewishness. Granted, it was many years ago that I read those books, but I think it’s not so much the amount of Jewishness but the obsession itself that I started to tire of.
While the book had some funny parts, it was sometimes too silly. Regularly there were conversations between people in which someone misunderstood the other, whether on purpose or not (“‘Come over’, he said, ‘I’ll order in Chinese’. ‘You speak Chinese now?'” [page 41]). It’s funny if it appears some of the time, but these kinds of conversations happened too often for my liking.
As it turned out, only one or two people in my book group finished the book. The others couldn’t get through it either.
Rating: No rating, did not finish the book
Number of pages: 312 (read to page 200)
First published: 2010
Genre: contemporary fiction