Inbetweener 13 Howard Jacobson – The Finkler Question


When I started to read The Finkler Question, I have to admit that I was quite irritated by the writing style. I’m not really a fan of humorous books but then after the first chapter I began to relax and  I ended up enjoying the book thoroughly. In fact a lot of it reminded me of  Philip Roth with a little bit of Martin Amis chucked in. Saying that I still didn’t laugh.

Julian Treslove is out of his luck, he has quit his job, is terrible with women and the two sons he sired after two separate encounters don’t really care for him either. His two friends are Jewish and both widowed. One is a 91-year-old Jew from the Czech Republic called Libor and the other is Sam Finkler , a philosopher. In their own ways they both contain the typical Jewish stereotype. The former is proud of his identity while the latter tries his hardest to shed his nationality. At this point Julian is curious about Jews (he calls them Finklers because he thinks that his friend in question is a typical Jew)

Julian’s turning point occurs when he is mugged by a women who calls him a Jew (or so he hears) and later on at a party he is mistaken for a Jew. This makes Julian reflect about Jewishness and he tries to explore the characteristics, shortcomings and traditions of Judaism. He starts off by interrogating his two friends and then he falls in love with Jewish lady who opens his eyes further to her race.

Jacobson may be seen as a comic writer and there are many light moments but actually he has taken a serious topic and stuffed it full of insight and reflective moments. The Finkler Question tackles prejudice, identity, conversion, the Jew in modern British society and whether or not these are only things which Jews are subject too. However the book is never heavy-handed despite it being a thought-provoking read.

In other words it’s a great contender for the Booker Prize. This is one book that will have clubs debating about for a couple of hours.