Unlike Howard Jacobson’s earlier playful, satirical novels, ‘J’ is a love story set in a dystopian society, where collective memory has been manipulated following a violent pogrom of 200,000 Jews.
Kevern doesn’t know why his father would always draw two fingers across his lips when he said a word starting with J and Ailinn has grown up not knowing who she is or where she came from.
Yet, they’re now finding solace in each others’ arms. It sometimes feels that the lovers’ relationship is a prism through which to put forward a message, so reading can become stodgy.
But you can’t help feeling that this is an important book, and it’s hugely compelling with wonderful, moving lines, such as: ‘How does a mother say goodbye to her child for the last time? What’s the kindest thing – to hang on until you are prised apart by bayonet, or to turn on your heels and go without once looking back? What are the rules of heartbreak? What is the etiquette?’ A novel worthy of its status as Booker long-listee.
‘J’ by Howard Jacobson is published in hardback by Jonathan Cape, priced £18.99 (ebook £7.49).
Irish-Turkish writer Joseph O’Neill returns with his Booker Prize long-listed novel, and continues to pen on subjects of which he himself has some experience.
His critically-acclaimed novel ‘Netherlands’ centred on moving to New York, which the lawyer did himself in 1988. Now, in ‘The Dog’ we have an American lawyer who moves to Dubai following a break-up in order to manage the finances of a wealthy Lebanese family. The book portrays life in the Emirate state to be rather bewildering, artificial and lonely. He manages to depict the class system and confusing life everyone – not just expats – must live in order to survive in the desert city.
Emulating the pace of the metropolis, the book skits about from one issue to another within a matter of paragraphs, be it a relationship breakdown, a missing scuba diver or an unusual building project. However, within the novel, O’Neill gives the reader nothing to cling on to and no characters with which they can form a page-turning relationship. Yet, perhaps this is the point – the protagonist has nothing to cling on to either.
‘The Dog’ by Joseph O’Neill is published in hardback by 4th Estate, £16.99 (ebook £7.63).