In this smart, contemporary tale two aging men cope, or fail to cope, with the loss of their wives and their identities. The third man doesn't have either one, but he too mourns.
The men in this book find themselves at loose ends. They have lost their footing, or else they never had it in the first place. Julian Treslove grasps for a sense of self and decides that being Jewish is his strongest source of identity, despite the fact that he is not actually a Jew. Sam Finkler is a Jew, but he struggles to separate himself from 'them' and flounders. Libor just misses his wife and mistrusts the tenuous safety of the Jews in Britain.
I did not like Treslove at all, though I am not convinced that you are supposed to like the protagonist in this story. Everyone needs something to ground them, and I found Treslove's way of swirling and eddying through life infuriating. However, his assumptions about and encounters with Jewishness are thought-provoking, revealing the complexity of the modern Jewish (Finkler) question.
Jacobson is at the top of his game in this book, which earned him the Man Booker Prize in 2010. The writing style is clever, poetic, and often funny. He explores themes of grief, jealousy, aging, and collective guilt. The story did not feel resolved in the end, probably because the complexities of the issues cannot be tied up into neat little packages.
Profile on the Booker Prize site: Howard Jacobson
I borrowed this book from a friend in paperback format.
Where do you get your sense of identity? Relationships? Nationality? Religion?