Review: The Finkler Question – Howard Jacobsen (2010 winner)

So this post has been quite a long time coming, a forgotten kindle combined with just being quite busy meant I didn’t read much for a couple of weeks, but I’ve finished Howard Jacobsen’s ‘The Finkler Question’. ‘Finkler’ is the surname of one of Treslove’s oldest (Jewish) friends, Sam, but it is his term he uses to refer to Jews generally, so the title of the book is really ‘The Jewish Question.

The book’s protagonist Julian Treslove is a tragic figure (in his own words “he was a man made to mourn”) who is fixated on his Jewish friends and the impact their religion and the history of the Jews has on their lives, the funny thing being that their Jewishness has a much greater influence on Treslove than it does on any of his Jewish friends, “It was true, he had tried to nose his way into other people’s tragedy and grandeur since he couldn’t lay his hands of any of his own”, in particularly the history of the Jewish people and the discrimination they face.

A lot of reviews of this book describe it as a comedy, and whilst I found it amusing I wouldn’t go anywhere near as far as saying its hilarious or a comedy. I enjoyed the language and the way in which Jacobsen builds up the characters throughout the book.

Quotes:

On the power of personal experience: “People on both sides of the debate shouted and told stories of a personal nature which they mistook for proof of whatever it was they believed”.

On the confusing complexity of Jews: “Every time he met a Finkler they changed the rules to which Finklers were meant to adhere”

Format: I read this book on the Kindle and again the thing I enjoy most about the Kindle is being able to hold down on a word to get the dictionary definition of it.

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