The Finkler Question

  • by Howard Jacobson
  • Narrated by Steven Crossley
  • 12 hrs and 37 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Man Booker Prize, Fiction, 2010
Julian Treslove and Sam Finkler are old school friends. Despite a prickly relationship and very different lives, they've never quite lost touch with each other - or with their former teacher, Libor Sevick. Now all three are recently widowed, in their own way, and spend sweetly painful evenings together reminiscing. Until an unexpected violent attack brings everything they thought they knew into question.


Audible Editor Reviews

This Booker Prize-winning novel doesn't cover a lot of thematic ground; like Jane Austen, Howard Jacobson likes to explore a narrow field of study. In his case, it is the UK's Jewish population especially as focussed around north London. But also like Austen, Jacobson's miniaturist observations can illuminate and touch on universal questions, and has room for multi-layered comedy.
Julian Treslove is an unspectacular television producer of arts programs and a celebrity impersonator, with two failed marriages behind him and two distant, resentful sons. A gentile convinced that a Jewish identity would offer asylum from his identity crisis, Treslove is acutely envious of his old school friend Sam Finkler, now a highly successful author of glib pop-philosophy best sellers with titles like "The Existentialist in the Kitchen". For Treslove, Finkler comes to represent Jewish identity: The 'Jewish question' (in all its loaded historical ambivalence) becomes the Finkler question, at once sanitized and personalized. Both men regularly meet with their former teacher, Libor Sevcik, a colorful Mittel-European transplant who serves as the book's heart (as well as narrator Steven Crossley's finest achievement). He is crotchety, funny, and touching in his devotion to his dead wife, even while on hilariously awkward dates.
Jacobson has great fun in pitting his character's different approaches to Jewishness against each other, particularly Treslove's gauche appropriation ("He looked like Topol; that's how Treslove knew he was a Jew."). There is a sense that the three male leads are facets of one personality with a schismatic approach to Jewishness: Crossley, however, is able to give each one their own unique voice. In fact, with The Finkler Question, Crossley gives a masterclass in narration. His characterizations are colorful without lapsing into caricature, and he unfailingly gets the intent behind each line, each rhetorical question, each instance of passive-aggressive indignation (and there's a lot of that). Especially with this book, the narrator has an important task: the physical attack that kicks off Treslove's identity crisis hinges on a linguistic confusion, and Crossley's obsessive delivery of each permutation of the attacker's garbled words is just one very funny moment in an excellent performance.


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

oh dear....

I bought this book because it's a booker Prize winner and because the audiobook got a really good review in the Telegraph, which I have previously found to be pretty reliable. I wish, however, that I had read some the reviews on the amazon website first.

I'm about 1 1/2 hours into the book. so far there's nothing resembling a plot, the characters are ill-defined and not really very attractive or interesting, and laboured jewish jokes are not really my cup of tea. On top of that, the narration is decidedly off-putting.....What really disappoints me is that Howard Jacobson is supposed to be a humourous author. Well, I dont find him at all funny. Very forced and heavy handed.

So I'm giving up. I may come back to the book if I lose my will to live.
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- Tom

The Finkler Question

Despite very good reviews I was most disappointed with this book. I only managed to get half-way through before deciding that it is a lot of inconsequential drivel, so I gave up. The main problem is that the story-line is so thin that it does not maintain the listener's to listen on, at least not mine.
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- Hugh

Book Details

  • Release Date: 15-09-2010
  • Publisher: Whole Story Audiobooks