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Solomon Gursky Was Here

3.96  ·  Rating Details ·  2,159 Ratings  ·  90 Reviews
Berger, son of the failed poet L.B. Berger, is in the grips of an obsession. The Gursky family with its colourful bootlegging history, its bizarre connections with the North and the Inuit, and its wildly eccentric relations, both fascinates and infuriates him. His quest to unravel their story leads to the enigmatic Ephraim Gursky: document forger in Victorian England, sole ...more
Paperback, 576 pages
Published January 29th 2002 by Penguin Canada (first published 1989)
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Jun 25, 2009 K rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: die-hard Richler fans who like Dickensian-type sagas
Imagine if I told you the story of Dr. Seuss’s “The Cat in the Hat” in the following way:

Chapter 1 – the birth of Thing One and Thing Two
Chapter 2 – after the children’s mother comes home at the end
Chapter 3 – the cat’s early childhood years
Chapter 4 – the fish’s perspective as the cat wrecks the house

And so on, and so forth, for 400 pages. Reading this book was a similar experience.

The basic plot of “Solomon Gursky was Here” focuses on the rise and exploits of the notoriously wealthy and powerf
Oct 05, 2010 ·Karen· rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: canada
What a rollicking humdinger of a roller coaster ride! Moses Berger's obsession with the Gursky dynasty pitches the reader from an early 19th century Durham coal mine to the 1980s Eastern Townships, with Franklin's disastrous voyage to find the Northwest passage and the building of a commercial empire based on the sale and production of alcohol with the murkiest, muddiest, most questionable of methods that slide in and out of legality in a slippery and deadly game. Five generations of Gurskys, in ...more
E’ un buon romanzo, ma meno coinvolgente de La versione di Barney, probabilmente perché quest’ultimo aveva un unico protagonista che catalizzava tutta l’attenzione, a dispetto delle tante figure, secondarie o meno, che pur costellavano il racconto. Barney era un “figlio di puttana”, al pari del precedente Duddy Kravitz, che non potevi fare a meno di trovare simpatico. Qui, diciamo, di “figli di puttana” ce ne sono un po’ troppi per reggerli proprio tutti.

Ci vuole un po’ ad ingranare, perché la
Aug 22, 2013 Dymbula rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Bez váhání pět hvězdiček. Sága jedné rodiny sepsaná tak neotřelým způsobem, že jsem chvílemi měl pocit, že knihu napsali nejméně čtyři spisovatelé a ne jen ten, kdo se pod knihu podepsal. Velmi zajímavá a neobvyklá forma.
this was a re-read for me... but i last read it when it was published (1989) and have a crap memory. so all i retained was the barest of strings, and the sense of just loving this story.

i have to say that i get so much enjoyment out of reading richler (and, as with carol shields, i get bummed fairly frequently over the fact they are no longer here to share new work with us). if the word 'romp' were ever well used in reviewing a book, it would be for this novel. it's a total romp. (can't believe
What a joy to read! How do you describe Solomon Gursky Was Here? In its simplest form, it's the story of Ephraim Gursky, a minor crook and forger, who escapes from prison in England and tricks his way onto the ill-fated Franklin expedition, and manages to survive the disaster. He roams the Arctic, becomes a religious leader to a band of Eskimos; in some way he persuades them they are one of the 12 tribes of Israel. He eventually finds his way to Saskatchewan, starts a family and then the story f ...more
Jul 29, 2010 Sara rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: saghe-familiari
Non è una lettura facile. Il continuo andirivieni nelle vite dei Gursky ti costringe a consultare l'albero genealogico di inizio libro più e più volte. Storie che si intrecciano e saltellano avanti e indietro sulla linea del tempo, mescolando personaggi, effetti e cause in una struttura narrativa nella quale è umanamente possibile perdere il filo. Il Solomon del titolo è solo uno dei tre fratelli che con una certa predisposizione al raggiro riuscirà a costruirsi un simil impero ai tempi del proi ...more
Mar 06, 2011 Ben rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: History buffs, people who enjoy mob stories, Canadians, Jewish people
Imagine Midnight's Children meets the Godfather. Now make it contiguous with 200 years of Canadian history. Now make it one of the most suspenseful, fascinating and hilarious thing you've ever read.

If you were able to imagine all that, you might have a taste for what this remarkable (but unfortunately underrated) novel has to offer. If you can keep up with the non-chronological narration, dozens of interesting characters, and the magical properties of the mysterious, trickster raven that weave
Daniel Kukwa
Apr 03, 2013 Daniel Kukwa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: canadian-lit
There were times when I believed "Solomon Gursky Was Here" would collapse under the weight of some many time lines, characters, and emotional's the novel equivalent of the most exquisitely constructed Jenga tower...ready to topple over at any moment. Luckily it doesn't...and Mordechai Richler's most ambitious & epic novel manages to hold together with stunning skill. This truly is an astonishing read, and shows a depth & breadth of reach that many people might not have belie ...more
Jan 12, 2011 Merilee rated it really liked it
I would give it a 5 if I were only expressing the pleasure I had in reading this hilarious and interesting shaggy family saga based mainly on the Canadian Bronfman family, of Prohibition liquor running fame. Richler manages to sneak a pair of Jewish con-men onto Franklin's Arctic expedition, one of them purportedly Gursky's/Bronfman's progenitor and the rest is history - sort of.
Karlo Mikhail
Aug 27, 2011 Karlo Mikhail rated it really liked it
In what is touted by critics as possibly Canadian author Mordecai Richler’s best novel, we accompany Moses Berger in his obsessive quest to unravel the secrets of the Gurskys, a Jewish family who ran one of the biggest Canadian business empires. Berger, the son of a Jewish poet, a drunkard and an unsuccessful writer, particularly searches for traces of Solomon Gursky, the most enigmatic of the three Gursky brothers who saw the rise of their family’s fortune during the prohibition years as bootle ...more
Mar 28, 2016 Clementine rated it really liked it
Shelves: school, 2016
This is my first foray into Mordecai Richler's adult fiction. I'm not sure why, but I wasn't expecting to enjoy it - perhaps because being assigned a nearly 600-page novel in the last few weeks of my degree is a bit of a bitter pill to swallow. However, I ended up actually quite enjoying it, mostly for the reason that people seem to dislike it: I'm a huge fan of multiple interlocking narratives, most especially if they aren't presented chronologically. Others have found the book difficult to fol ...more
Grant Patten
Jun 22, 2014 Grant Patten rated it did not like it
What a mess! ... This was my first and likely last Richler novel. I was expecting something a lot more coherent out of a man who was supposedly one of the great Canadian novelists. This is a ridiculously overcooked, meandering book with little-to-no focus. I think as late as the final few chapters, Richler was STILL introducing new characters!! I find it pretty infuriating when an author does that.

The book is far too grandiose in scope. He introduces too many characters, too many disconnected s
May 31, 2010 1.1 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Can Lit is sort of in thrall to 'Arctic Narratives', and multi-generational epics seem to be a dime-a-dozen just about anywhere, so I was leery of this book at first. But I had read Richler before, and high hopes compelled me to press on despite being a bit confused at the start (I had to flip compulsively to the Gursky family tree every chapter). The narration is nonlinear, so there's your prerequisite dose of bewildering postmodernism I guess, but I found it well-paced and effective.

The dialog
Ironical Dins
Jul 26, 2012 Ironical Dins rated it liked it
Shelves: canadian-authors
This is the story of the founding of a family dynasty through the eyes of an outside chronicler, Moses Berger, who is the son of a poet who the family supported. Really, the book is about many things: an obsession with those who are more financially fortunate, living in the shadow of our parents, Jewish experience throughout the world, the North and experiences of the North, family business and prohibition, and, I may be reaching here, who owns the past and who owns Canada's past.
I didn't care for the book but it's well written. Vast. So... my liking of it has no bearing on its genius.
Feb 12, 2011 Mag rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was my second reading of the book, and twenty years later I still found it an intelligent and hilarious, if somewhat biting, romp through Canadian Jewish history.
Oct 08, 2016 Avery rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
So much fun. You can see Richler doing some Farley Mowat here.
AS well as mystery writing that would develop into the sort that is Barney's version.
Troy Parfitt
Mar 02, 2011 Troy Parfitt rated it really liked it
Mordecai Richler’s penultimate novel, and certainly his most ambitious, Solomon Gursky Was Here is a yarn spun around the Gursky brothers – Bernard, Morrie, and Solomon – kings of a whiskey empire forged from bootlegging, millionaires many times over, and based on Canada’s Bronfman family. The brood constitute the grandchildren of one Ephraim Gursky, a Jew and sole survivor of the ill-fated Franklin Expedition, an 1846 attempt at unmasking the Northwest Passage.

Ephraim cuts a trickster figure;
Dec 27, 2016 Frank rated it liked it
Probably worth 3,5 or 4 stars, but it was such a heavy read, that I sped through the last 200 pages or so. I was determined to finish it, but it was draining! Practically each character was flawed and complex with an unhappy back-story, leading them to few to no redeeming qualities. I'm in a phase where I would like to enjoy the characters I'm reading about, and this is not the book to be reading!

But it is a well-written book, and for an impatient reader like myself, it does indeed require 1 or
The Cannibal
Petite voix discordante dans toutes ces éloges pour ce roman… Parce que moi, j’ai aimé certains passages mais pas tout le roman. On peut en scalper une partie ?

C’était suite à une chronique élogieuse chez une copine blogueuse que j’avais acheté cette brique de 633 pages. L’objet est beau, tout blanc, couverture gaufrée, on aurait bien peur de le salir.

J’avais plus que hâte de le lire et il m’aura fallu une laborieuse semaine pour en venir à bout, littéralement aux forceps et même à la vêleuse à
Carl R.
May 08, 2012 Carl R. rated it really liked it
It’s a pleasure to be back in the company of Mordecai Richler. This is my third session with him, the first without a mention of Duddy Kravitz, the third with home base in Montreal. However, twentieth century Eastern Canada is only a pivot point for Solomon Gursky. It opens in seventeenth century Maine, wanders around to Newgate prison, puts us among a tribe of Jewish Eskimos (courtesy of a disastrous search for the Northwest Passage), generally sprawling all over time and space.
When it’s good,
Clare O'Beara
I read this the year that it was nominated for the Booker. The story follows a Jewish family and flips between past and present, city and remote wilderness, light-hearted and dramatic. So it is best read in the spirit of adventure.

I found the modern story (1990 modern) the poorer but maybe people who are Jewish would be more interested. The character was not an inspiring sort and he was trying to trace a Canadian family to the adventurer who founded its fortune.

The past character, Solomon Gurs
Aug 08, 2012 Giorgio rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

La ricerca di una storia, anzi, la ricerca della vera versione di una storia. "Solomon Gursky è stato qui" è un libro monumentale e non è sicuramente una lettura facile per vari motivi. La trama non segue un semplice cammino lineare, ma viene sviluppata tramite vari intrecci collegati tra loro e raccontati in epoche diverse (prima nel XIX secolo, poi nel 1973, poi negli anni '50, poi si torna negli anni 70). Il linguaggio stesso è arricchito da tanti termini inuit e yiddish, e per seguire be
Harvey Glk
Nov 28, 2015 Harvey Glk rated it it was amazing
I first read this book as a young 20 yr old university student with a short attention span and a heavy course load. I found this a difficult book to read in short bouts over a long period of time due the large number of characters and the time travel.
Forty years later, I reread this marvel of a book with the luxury of time and attention that it deserves. And I am so glad I did. I am a long time fan of Richler and find his acerbic, unapologetic, character rich style of writing a delight. Barney's
Dec 26, 2012 Sarah rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: canada
Sprawling and mostly entertaining, and full of Canadian references and in-jokes, some of which I got - and some very interesting concepts, like introducing a significant (and spurious) Jewish element into Arctic history, and/or claiming a bit of the Canadian Arctic mythology for the Jewish community.

There's something lacking here though: chronology, for one, as while I could more or less keep the substantial cast straight, I got lost in time and couldn't remember when these events over 150 years
Mar 17, 2013 Rachael rated it liked it
This was my first grown-up Mordedcai Richler book, and I was very excited to dig in. However, it took me more than a year to get through this one. It sat on my shelf, as I read bits of it, but got distracted with more gripping books. It felt really long. I've seen other reviews that say it's like a Jewish, Canadian, Northern version of "One Hundred Years of Solitude"...I'd say that's a very good comparison. I read that a few years ago, and it was to same feat to get through.

Despite its collosal
Aug 28, 2010 Rudj rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: anglosassone
Se La versione di Barney era un assolo del protagonista eponimo Solomon Gursky è un romanzo corale, una saga famigliare che compre tre generazioni. Denso di personaggi irresistibili, di temi afascinanti (fra gli altri il passaggio a nord-Ovest e i miti haida) e con una struttura narrativa complessa ma appagante, il romanzo è forse un filo superiore anche al già citato Barney.

Piccolo OT: di solito non accosto mai i romanzi che leggo all'attualità, anzi leggo propio per estraniarmi da quella si pu

May 23, 2007 kate rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
for reasons I do not fully understand, just thinking about Solomon Gursky converting a tribe of Inuit to a gurskycentric branch of judaism which, a generation or two later, almost causes them to starve to death in the 6 months of daylight/6 months of darkness arctic cycle and confusing the hell out of the well intentioned canadian government and its anthropologists as to why this rogue tribe is refusing to eat (actually attempting to fast but the sun never comes back), makes me laugh.

I was in a
Davide Socci
Jan 05, 2012 Davide Socci rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Una lettura che, a dir poco, definirei difficile: vuoi per i vari livelli (cronologici, geografici e culturali) su cui la storia si dipana, vuoi per la modalità del raccontare a frammenti (brani che definire "flashback" mi pare fin troppo).
Ma, se seguire il filo narrativo è talvolta complicato, la storia si dimostra effervescente e, quanto meno, curiosa: l'epopea dei Gursky ci conferma che Richler è un grande scrittore, che sa strappare sorrisi (amari e non) in quantità. E se la lettura è spesso
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Mordecai Richler was a Canadian author, screenwriter and essayist.

His best known works are The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz (1959) and Barney's Version (1997); his 1989 novel Solomon Gursky Was Here was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 1990. He was also well known for the Jacob Two-Two children's stories. .

The son of a Jewish scrap yard dealer, Richler was born in 1931 and raised on St.
More about Mordecai Richler...

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“Mr. Bernard died on a Monday, at the age of seventy-five, his body wasted. He lay in state for two days in the lobby of the Bernard Gursky Tower and, as he failed to rise on the third, he was duly buried.” 10 likes
“Obviously the raven with the unquenchable itch was at it again, playing tricks on the world and its creatures. Once by air, he thought, and now by water.” 2 likes
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