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A Jest of God
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A Jest of God (Manawaka Sequence)

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3.89 of 5 stars 3.89  ·  rating details  ·  1,468 ratings  ·  53 reviews
In this celebrated novel, Margaret Laurence writes with grace, power, and deep compassion about Rachel Cameron, a woman struggling to come to terms with love, with death, with herself and her world.

Trapped in a milieu of deceit and pettiness – her own and that of others – Rachel longs for love, and contact with another human being who shares her rebellious spirit. Through
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Paperback, 240 pages
Published December 1st 2008 by New Canadian Library (first published 1966)
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(showing 1-30 of 2,143)
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Maureen
this is a review from 30,000 feet. i floated above the words in the book as i read rather than immersing myself in the action as i normally do because my reading brain has abandoned me. this slim novel should not have taken me the weeks? a month? more? that it took to get through. margaret atwood, to me, the lesser margaret of canadian literature, remarks in her afterword about this book by the margaret i consider the greater, that she read it in one sitting, which seems about right (just becaus ...more
Dorothyanne Brown
I was raised in the US and had little introduction to Laurence except through the Diviners, which I remembered primarily because of the sperm stain on the woman's dress. (I led a sheltered life and was shocked about that). And when I read The Stone Angel, I was too young to appreciate the feelings therein. And, sorry to say, high school English ruined it for me.
This book I picked up because the woman in it is at a phase of her life I could identify with entirely. Rachel Cameron is trapped, total
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Sarah
Jul 06, 2008 Sarah rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Canadian Fiction Fans, Love Stories
I cannot praise this novel highly enough.

In a way, Margaret Laurence has crafted a mature coming of age story. Striving to send out the message, that it's not too late to be what you might of become earlier on in life. The protagonist featured in Laurence's stories of life in Manawaka, Canada, is Rachel, a spinster teacher who finds herself stuck in a middle some life, going nowhere. It isn't upon the introduction to newcomer, Nick, that Rachel embarks on a sexual initiation into the women that
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Sue
This book disturbed me at many levels. It was excellently written. The story of a very uptight "spinster" in the mid sixties who was a bit of a nervous nellie evoked some emotion in me as this woman reminded me a lot of certain women in my life. I was able to understand some of the reasons why this "type" of women acts the way she does, and I'm not sure I am totally happy with the answer. It was a really good read, though, for all that. I'm glad I read it.
Lorri Steinbacher
Wow. What a sad book. Maybe not completely sad. I certainly felt discomfited by Rachel's inability to get out of her own way. Disheartened by how easily she talked herself into being disheartened. How every sliver of hope life presented to her or that she allowed herself to dream was squashed by her insecurity and by her mother's neurosis and self-absorption. (view spoiler) ...more
Erin
I love Margaret Laurence. (I know I’m supposed to feel some ambivalence about her because she’s sometimes racist, and maybe classist, but for what it’s worth, I don’t care. Sometimes I wonder whether the politics of a writer can be left aside when considering the merits of the writing. We’ve been talking in class about this idea: whether because an author does terrible things in their work/public life, whether we then need to dismiss their writing because of their unsavory personal story. We con ...more
Sandra Willey
Ah, the star rating system. Cheap and easy, unlike this book. I have reserved 5 stars for the life-changers, the elite, those books that hold up to a reading/decade and continue to blossom and unfold. I've given To Kill a Mocking Bird a marginal 5; Cry the Beloved Country a solid one. Having said that, A Jest of God is not in the same league with my 4's, but I don't like leaving it down with the 3's. It's better than that. Laurence can write. She can handle language and characters. The intriguin ...more
Teresa
This is a very good, well-written novel with wonderful character development. It only seems dated perhaps in that sexual mores had not changed yet in this time period and in this small town -- which is one of the themes of the novel. But the inner life of this lonely 34-year-old woman is not dated and her unarticulated emotions and feelings are easily understood. And, oh, those conversations she has with her mother! They are so real as to be almost painful. I look forward to reading more by Laur ...more
Bradley Sykes
My reading of the book became disjointed in the beginning and I wasn't sure of how much I was getting into Rachel's world. But surely, through Laurence's fantastic and incisive prose, Rachel's rather neurotic mind, charmingly subjugated character, and ultimate growth become a very rich, engrossing story indeed.
Janice
The pathos of the main character, Rachel Cameron, was palpable. I almost couldn't stand reading it. It's like being with that friend who sucks your energy dry. Yet, Margaret Laurence has created characters that felt real and for that, I gave the book 4 stars.
Vionna
Rachel is trying to find her way out of despair, possibly madness. She is shackled to an overbearing mother who victimizes her at every turn. She struggles to find a better and finally does. Very sensitively written.
C.
My reaction is lacklustre but I appreciated the feverish musing and originality of “A Jest Of God”, 1966. ‘Rachel’ is down to Earth but I can’t fathom anyone so spineless or inanely self-doubting. I reject a languid demeanour, while one is raging over scenarios that are bothersome. Her mother isn’t outwardly dominating, thus I can’t fathom Rachel regularly giving into baseless guilt trips. A thirty-four year-old need not apologize for walking to a store, accepting an outing with peers, nor make ...more
Discoverylover
May 12, 2009 Discoverylover marked it as released-or-to-release-without-read  ·  review of another edition
"A thirty-four-year-old school teacher living with her mother, Rachel Cameron feels trapped in an environment of small-town deceit and pettiness--her own and that of others. She longs for contact with another human being who shares her rebellious spirit. Finally, by confronting both love and death, Rachel earns the freedom she desperately needs.

Winner of the Governor General's Literary Award, A Jest of God was also the basis of the movie Rachel, Rachel. "Mrs. Laurence tells [her story] unsparin
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Debbie
Another classic of Canadian literature and a huge disappointment for me as a fan of Margaret Laurence whose Stone Angel is one of my favourite books.

A Jest of God follows Rachel Cameron, a 34-year-old spinster school teacher in the small prairie town of Manawaka. Because it’s told in the first person from Rachel’s view, we are privy to Rachel’s thoughts. For most of the book there is a wide discrepancy between what Rachel is in her visible public life, how she deals with and appears to others, a
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Krista
I got the curse this week. I was - of course- relieved. Who wouldn't be? Anyone would naturally be relieved, under the circumstances. It stands to reason. You hear of women waiting for it, and worrying incessantly, and then when it comes, they're released and everything is all right and that anxiety is over for the moment and for a while one need not think What would I do? What would become of me? I was terribly relieved. It was a relief, reprieve.

That is a lie, Rachel. That is really a lie, in
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Veronica
Excruciating. This novel is narrated by repressed thirty-something schoolteacher Rachel, living in Manawaka with her ailing, manipulative mother. Rachel is the first-person "unreliable narrator" in similar vein to the narrator of Zoe Heller's Notes on a Scandal. Hopelessly shy and self-obsessed, Rachel is still a virgin, dreaming of love and cursing her mother's constant harping on "what other people will think", even though she herself is haunted by exactly the same concerns. When she meets Nic ...more
Debra
Thirty-four-old school teacher Rachel Cameron is living a quiet life with her mother in the small Manitoba town of Manawaka. It’s not a town where much happens and when it does, everyone knows. The return of an old school friend, Nick Kazlik, adds some spark to Rachel’s life, but these are the early 60’s, a time where proper women do not follow through on their deepest wishes and needs without repercussions. Rachel embarks on an affair with Nick, her heart and body telling her that this is right ...more
Jim Puskas
I think this will be the last of Laurence's books I will read. Well written, to be sure but in the end, depressing. Rachel, a 34 year old spinster Grade Two teacher (how predictably tiresome is that?) lives a life of quiet desperation, tyrannized by her petty-minded Principal and her guilt-tripping mother. She finally meets a man who manages to awaken her sexually (sort of) but who(probably realizing what a hopeless case she is) leaves town without so much as a phone call. The only interesting a ...more
Kris
4.5 STARS

"In this celebrated novel, Margaret Laurence writes with grace, power, and deep compassion about Rachel Cameron, a woman struggling to come to terms with love, with death, with herself and her world.

Trapped in a milieu of deceit and pettiness - her own and that of others - Rachel longs for love, and contact with another human being who shares her rebellious spirit. Through her summer affair with Nick Kazlik, a schoolmate from earlier years, she learns at last to reach out to another pe
...more
Brad
This is the first time I've read a book by Margaret Laurence and I was pretty impressed with her literary style which is peppered with lots of dark humour. Laurence tackles themes such as teaching, sexuality, mental health, religion, death, and life in 1950's small town Canada. I look forward to someday reading her most famous book, The Stone Angel.
Paul
My copy was titled "Rachel Rachel" but Goodreads won't allow that for some reason. Original title was "A Jest of God" but there was a movie, and you know how it goes.

A great book, I was impressed. This thing has been on my shelves for oh so many years, how it got there I have no idea, and why I never read it I can't say. I just picked it up cold and started reading and suddenly I am in the mind of the narrator, Rachel Cameron, a "spinster" who lives in Canada, teaches school, and it in mortal da
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Daniel Kukwa
For approximately four-fifths of this novel, I had "Jane Eyre" syndrome: all I could do was scream at the protagonist to "GET A LIFE...GROW A SPINE...FIGHT BACK AND ASSERT YOURSELF!" It was extremely well-written and realistic...but it drove me completely crazy. I just wanted to slap the main character with a fish until she grabbed hold of the reins of her life -- it lasted far too long for my taste, and I almost gave up on the sheer relentless self-pity & self-loathing. The final chapter re ...more
Hillary
I can't explain why I love this book, but I recommend it with my entire being.
Margaret Laurence, I love you.
Chrissy
I have terribly mixed feelings about this book. I did a project on it in university, so I got very deep into it and came to some profound understanding of Margaret Lawrence's mind. This is usually a great thing, but whatever I came to understand about her that was rewarding and good, was invariably mingled with disgust and discomfort. This is a disturbing book, not in a particular shocking or appalling way, but rather a slow, quiet, painful way. It got under my skin and kind of made me hate peop ...more
Jeanette
The actual name of the publication I read was "Rachel, Rachel" copyrite 1966. Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf. It was formerly published as "A Jest of God". For a teacher, Rachel is terribly naive. It is really pathetic (the way she analyzes & evaluates situations & events). I had trouble reading it because it was so ridiculous; but I cannot get the pitiful girl out of my mind. She did show evidence of getting wiser near the end. Experience was a good teacher as it is to all of us. (given to ...more
Jessica
I don't have fond memories of this book - but that said, I read it while in grade 11 or 12, which was 12-13 years ago; and I had just finished reading The Diviners and The Stone Angel, plus The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields. I think that I was DONE with Canadian literature at that time. I think that I was a little too young to appreciate these stories and the women in these stories. As such, I don't trust my teenaged reviews of these books and will have to read them again someday...
Bee
Mar 30, 2009 Bee rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Bee by: sister's friend
Honestly, from all the hype around the book, I was expecting more from the story. The tale's main character (I think heroine is too strong a word) just didn't compel me to think about her while I wasn't reading the book, which I find to be the mark of an excellent read. I couldn't put myself in her shoes, and the ending disappointed me a bit. All in all, it was all right but not something I'd likely inflict upon myself again.
Y T
When I first picked up the book I saw the word compassion written on the back description. It seemed a bit tacky and superficial, one of those words that critics stick in their review for want of something (ANYthing) to write. However, the book is permeated with it. You can feel the authors deep and true compassion for her characters even as she makes fun of them.
Rah Rahrah
Re-reading this after 30 years made me really uncomfortable. I didn't like the main character. This particular individual was too much like what perhaps I could have become had I stayed in a small town & lived in a fantasy world. Laurence dishes out a lot of true emotions - almost too true - in this book. The title is very appropriate.
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Margaret Laurence was born Jean Margaret Wemyss on July 18, 1926 in the prairie town of Neepawa, Manitoba, Canada. Both of her parents passed away in her childhood, and Laurence was raised by her aunt and maternal grandfather.

Laurence decided in childhood that she wanted to be a writer, and began writing stories in elementary school. Her professional writing career began in 1943 with a job at the
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“Where I'm going, anything may happen. Nothing may happen. Maybe I will marry a middle-aged widower, or a longshoreman, or a cattle-hoof-trimmer, or a barrister or a thief. And have my children in time. Or maybe not. Most of the chances are against it. But not, I think, quite all. What will happen? What will happen. It may be that my children will always be temporary, never to be held. But so are everyone's.

I may become, in time, slightly more eccentric all the time. I may begin to wear outlandish hats, feathered and sequinned and rosetted, and dangling necklaces made from coy and tiny seashells which I've gathered myself along the beach and painted coral-pink with nail polish. And all the kids will laugh, and I'll laugh, too, in time. I will be light and straight as any feather. The wind will bear me, and I will drift and settle, and drift and settle. Anything may happen, where I'm going.”
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“Nothing is clear now. Something must be the matter with my way of viewing things. I have no middle view. Either I fix on a detail and see it as thought it were magnified -- a leaf with all its veins perceived, the fine hairs on a man's hands -- or else the world recedes and becomes blurred, artificial, indefinite, an abstract painting of a world. The darkening sky is hugely blue, gashed with rose, blood, flame from the volcano or wound or flower of the lowering sun. The wavering green, the sea of grass, piercingly bright. Black tree trunks, contorted, arching over the river.” 0 likes
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