Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Finkler Question” as Want to Read:
The Finkler Question
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Finkler Question

2.76  ·  Rating Details ·  11,652 Ratings  ·  1,877 Reviews
Julian Treslove, a professionally unspectacular and disappointed BBC worker, and Sam Finkler, a popular Jewish philosopher, writer and television personality, 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 Sevcik, a Czechoslovakian always more concerned wi ...more
Hardcover, 307 pages
Published August 2nd 2010 by Bloomsbury
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Finkler Question, please sign up.

Popular Answered Questions

Abhishek Good that you got it's sense of humour, most of it at the main characters. I initially had a bit of difficulty with things Jewish, but a lot of it can…moreGood that you got it's sense of humour, most of it at the main characters. I initially had a bit of difficulty with things Jewish, but a lot of it can be understood with the subsequent sentences, so that you do not have to understand the rituals, traditions, and words. A momentary pause to search it up on Google might help the more curious and interested mind. Happy Reading! (less)

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
According to the reviews on the back cover, The Finkler Question is hilarious. The front cover proclaims that it won the 2010 Man Booker Prize. A reviewer from the London Times asks "How is it possible to read Howard Jacobson and not lose oneself in admiration for the music of his language, the power of his characterization and the penetration of this insight?"

I dunno how exactly, but I did not lose myself in admiration of Jacobson while reading The Finkler Question.

Two friends of Julian Treslov
A.J. Howard
I don't like the idea that literature is written "for" or "not for" any people. Sure, you might be able to appreciate War and Peace better if you are a member of the 19th century Russian intelligentsia. But you're a fool if you let a smaller share of comparative appreciation get in your way. I mean, I can't let the fact that I'm middle class and white distract me from the fact that I enjoy listening to Public Enemy. I'm not comfortable with the idea that anything is beyond my empathy. What I'm s ...more
Jun 30, 2011 Drew rated it did not like it
I've always been suspicious of the Booker Prize: a solid, stick-in-the-mud reward to literary doggedness and middlebrow worthiness that guarantees reading matter for the leafy home counties if nothing else. As a Nobel Prize lite it tends to award writers for what they mean rather than what they write.

Howard Jacobson's The Finkler Question has a central question that falls perfectly in the Booker court: what is Jewishness? And what does it mean to be Jewish in England today? It's a question that
Rajat Ubhaykar
Jul 12, 2015 Rajat Ubhaykar rated it it was ok
Shelves: comedy, british
I had no clue what I was signing up for when I began reading this. The author began by making a very big deal about the pain of being a Jew in the modern world and ended the book with an impassioned plea to see Jews for what they really are, half right and half wronged, like the rest of us. I appreciate that unambiguously. Nobody should be singled out for persecution, I agree. What I don't appreciate is being bombarded with the words 'Jew', 'Ju', 'Julian' with freakish consistency on every page. ...more
Aug 15, 2016 Elaine rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2011
I kept wanting to quit this unlikeable cramped book, but I didn't, because I kept waiting to see what the Booker Prize committee saw in it. I never did.

I'm not sure if this book's unpleasantness says anything valid about British society or British Jewry, but I tend to think the solipsistic paranoia is all the author's. None of the characters are more than a sketched idea, lacking realistic grounding. For example, despite the all too minutely detailed fear of anti-Jewish violence in 21st century
Jun 12, 2016 Elyse rated it it was ok
I never reviewed this book after I read it --- (read it ways back when it first came out) --but another GR's friend just brought this book to my attention.
I never understood why it won the Man Booker prize.

Set in London....
Jewish friends discuss the state of Israel - life -and love --anti-Semitism in England -the meaning of Judaism (religion or philosophy)...etc.

Some things were funny -but overall things become tedious and even offensive very quickly.

I never recommend this book!

Dec 03, 2010 Liz rated it liked it
I found this book laborious and slow moving. The parameters were too constrained to comfortably contain Julian, the main character's obsession with Jews and his wishful wondering if, by any quirk of fate, he could have something in his ancestry that would allow him to lay claim to being partly Jewish.

This tiresome obsession was sparked by an incident in which he was mugged by someone who, he believed, mistook him for a Jew. From then on Julian's thoughts are dominated by ways of being Jewish. H
Ian Mapp
Jul 16, 2012 Ian Mapp rated it did not like it
Man Booker Prize Winner for 2010.

Look at the back of the book. Everyone (other writers, newspapers etc) say how wonderful this book is. How he is the funniest writer alive. Blah Blah Blah.

Maybe I am not the demographic for a Jewish crisis of existence book but it did not make me laugh once, nothing really happended and it was as dull as dish water.

Repition of themes, events, sayings, jokes, characteristics cannot be expected to carry a novel over 370 pages. And I imagine that the J E and W keys
Ainsley kerr
Dec 31, 2016 Ainsley kerr rated it it was amazing
Really really really great. hard to put down. touching and funny. unexpectedly challenging. presents a difficult topic in a hitting and fearless fashion. empowered me with a nuanced perspective and vocabulary with which to challenge prevailing or simplistic notions of the Jewish identity. every time I put it down I had a strange yearning to call my grandmother, to remember and to be close.
Milky Cosmos
Jan 23, 2014 Milky Cosmos rated it really liked it
This is a great book. Don't let the philistines of this pitiful site ruin it for you. I picked it up because I hold Wodehouse in such esteem for his comedic novels (not that I was expecting Wodehouse here, he just introduced me to this category of writing). I had to read something more contemporary and since this won the booker prize I just bought it.

The first thing I must elucidate is that Finkler and the others seem to be more concerned with melancholic satire and the humour may not be too ama
K.D. Absolutely
Jan 01, 2012 K.D. Absolutely rated it liked it
I am still to read Roddy Doyle's Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha but, to date, I've read more than half of the Man Booker winning novels. None of those made me laugh out loud as much as this book, Howard Jacobson's The Finkler Question. Twice at least not counting the grins and the smiles that came in between.

Funny and refreshing. Most of the half of those books that I've read were downright depressing including the last winner, Julian Barnes The Sense of an Ending. So, this book by Jacobson that won in 2
Feb 14, 2014 Lilian rated it it was amazing
This is perhaps the funniest book I've ever read; it's also seriously brilliant. This is a novel that deserved to win the Booker prize.

It's about anti-semitism in particular, but more generally about other-ness and self, about hatred, jealousy and love. The first 2/3 is laugh out loud funny, so much so that I attracted attention from my kids (what's so funny, Mom?), my h (who took the kobo from me to read a passage) and strangers who looked around to see the hilarity for themselves (in the girl
Apr 17, 2012 Tuck rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
my 2nd booker prize winner (2010) in about as many days. winning has caused quite a bit a controversy and even before winning lots of ink spilled debating whether this was any good and antisemitism in UK, and self-anti-semitism (a la tony judt The Memory Chalet ) and zionoism/israeliism (a la grossman To the End of the Land ) and racism in general in uk especially (a la malkani Londonstani and barnes Arthur & George ) and passing and friendship and sex and polemics and much more. fun how fic ...more
Ravi Gangwani
Sometimes bitter coffee secretes more flavor on palate especially if we cling to trite routine of sweet one's.
Why there is so much problem in being a loser ? or is it uncoolness to be the secondary character in life. Aren't we confused or perplexed in any stage of life ?
Is that life is always taut. Or is it discursive ?

And this is what this book was.

I loved it book for three reasons :
(1) The honeylike Jewishness squeezing from it.
(2) Hephzibah - The most catchy name I ever heard in life.
(3) T
Feb 01, 2011 Steve rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Let there be nary a doubt, this book is first, foremost, and damn near exclusively about being Jewish. Jewish in England, Jewish in culture, Jewish in language, Jewish in world affairs, Jewish against Israel, Jewish for Israel, Jewish in humor, Jewish in intellect, Jewish in guilt, Jewish in pleasures, Jewish in the head, Jewish in the schlang, Jewish in food, Jewish in ceremony, Jewish as chosen, Jewish as persecuted, and Jewish in just about any other way you can imagine, stereotyped or otherw ...more
Mind numbingly boring, self indulgent navel gazing, attempted intellectualisation of mid life crisis wankery.
As my five stars say, "it was amazing"!!

Funny. Scathing. Humourous. Satiric. Trivial. Serious. 'Jocoserious'. Mad. Repetitive. Circular. Sensible. Nonsensical. Touching.

The Finkler Question has something to do with Jewishness, something to do with Jewish people, nothing to do with 'Issrrae', something to do with the image of Israel, and everything to do with human nature.

Go read it!!!
Although it was a slow read in comparison to many of the books I've raced through over the last few months (it took me a whole two weeks to finish it - shock horror!), I started off really enjoying this. I found the characters interesting, amusing, and likeable despite themselves - Julian Treslove is in many ways a horrible person (astoundingly selfish and self-involved, to the point of not caring about or even noticing his own sons), yet he's also hilariously funny, and quite loveable simply be ...more
Aug 18, 2010 Darryl rated it it was amazing
Julian Treslove is a 49 year old Gentile living in present day London whose life has been a series of disappointments: he has movie star good looks but can't seem to sustain a relationship with a woman for more than a few months; he was let go from his production job at the BBC for his overly morbid programs on Radio 3, a station known for its solemnity; and he has fathered two boys, who ridicule and despise him. Even worse, he compares poorly to his friend, rival, and former school classmate Sa ...more
Dec 16, 2015 James rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
I think this is a book about trying to belong to a cultural construct and perhaps about belonging to cultural construct on ones own terms. The critics thought the book succeeded brilliantly, an enthusiasm I struggled to share completely,

Libor, an old Jewish widower, the eponymous Finkler also a Jewish widower but younger and angrier, and finally their gentile sad sack friend Treslove all orbit around what they are and how they define themselves. For Libor it's How to continue living beyond the d
Anne Van
Dec 20, 2010 Anne Van rated it it was ok
The 2010 Man Booker Prize winner and after 100 pages, I'm wondering if I really need to keep reading. It's been described as a comedy......thus far, nothing strikes me as funny, or even mildly amusing. The main character has an obsession (concerning he's not Jewish) with Jewishness, what it is, what it isn't. Fine, I'm interested, too. The problem seems to be the limited parameters that the character explores this, the limited characters of just three men (none likable), and no plot. Maybe it wi ...more
Sep 01, 2012 Shane rated it really liked it
A novel that does not disguise that it wants to explore what it means to be a Jew today.

The narrator Treslove is a Gentile but feels that he is more Jewish than his two buddies, Finkler and Libor, taking on a Jewish girlfriend, wallowing in his guilt and shame, learning Yiddish and even willing to submit to circumcision. His two Jewish friends however feel that “a minor indiscretion, or two, does not matter,” and shrug off Treslove, saying that he can never become one of them – there is more to
Aug 06, 2011 Iris rated it it was ok
I wish I could find a review that contained some insight into this book that I apparently missed, and that could justify it getting the Booker prize. The best description I can come up with on my own is "preposterous", as in asinine, ludicrous, and all the way to plain stupid. And that's just for the story, which seems to have started as an essay on "the Jewish question" and modern anti-semitism and apparently morphed into an absurd story (The Washington Post qualified it as "Chekhovian touch of ...more
Adrian White
Feb 18, 2012 Adrian White rated it did not like it
Should a comic novel make me laugh? Is it funny to spend the first thirty-odd pages riffing on the word Jew? Can Jews write about anything other than being a Jew? If you’re going to write a novel about being a Jew, should it have at least some universal relevance ie. about being a human being? Should it be wrapped up in an interesting story? Should it have characters I give a toss about? Why does The Finkler Question remind me of Skippy Dies? Is it because they both take an inordinate length of ...more
Ron Charles
Dec 07, 2013 Ron Charles rated it really liked it
Howard Jacobson's comedy about anti-Semitism, "The Finkler Question," won the $79,000 Man Booker Prize for Fiction in London Tuesday, beating "Parrot & Olivier in America," by two-time winner Peter Carey, and Emma Donoghue's popular "Room." Jacobson, 68, who remains far better known in his native England than in this country, has been a prolific writer of comic novels, mostly about Jews and Jewish identity, since 1983. Several have landed on the Booker long list.

That Jacobson could write a c
Reading this book was a chore, and I doubt I would have finished it if not for my book club. For a while there I was wondering whether this was the Booker Committee's way of throwing Jews a bone because of some other Booker winner in the recent past which could be construed as anti-semitic. As I plodded through I began to recognize some of the book's merits, but at no point did it become an enjoyable reading experience for me.

First of all, this could probably be described as a "novel of ideas,"
May 08, 2011 Jillwilson rated it really liked it
The Finkler Question. Good in bits.
“You could divide the world into those who wanted to kill Jews and those who wanted to be Jews.” versus “We’re all anti-Semites. We have no choice. You. Me. Everyone.”
When I was young I read Exodus and all of the writing of Leon Uris. I read Anne Frank and Phillip Roth. Chaim Potok. Went to see Woody Allan movies. Read Elie Wiesel. Tried to get up to speed on things like the Holocaust. On gefilte fish, Shabbat and other things Jewish. A bit of a fascination re
Nov 11, 2010 Eliza rated it really liked it
11/11/10: Well, I'm glad I read it. Not always easy to read, though Jacobson writes beautifully. It just requires a lot of patience. It's a bit like reading a Henry James novel with a Jewish slant: nothing much happens (the plot can be summed up in a paragraph), and every moment, every thought, every social interchange is endlessly parsed and analyzed. Lots of interior thought processes. Which I find fascinating (I love Henry James) but also sometimes arduous.
Although the story is about the exp
Dec 22, 2010 Marialyce rated it liked it
What is it like to be a Jew in modern day England in the question that this book covers. Told through the eyes, behavior, and words of three men it explores the concept of what makes a Jewish person a Jew. It was oftentimes quite funny although the topic one of seriousness. Julian, the Jewish wannabee, wanders around the story looking for his Jewishness. He is pretty much of a loser so one thinks that through his fervor for his Jewishness he will become a better person. He is convinced that he h ...more
Mar 01, 2011 Joanne rated it did not like it
Why did this book win a prize? Why didn't I get it? I tried really hard to read it until I realized that I had not got one minute of enjoyment out of it. So why read it? Why didn't I like it: there was a lack of story; the characters were unappealing and two-dimensional - do people like this really exist and if so, why write about them? The reviews said it was extremely funny, but I didn't laugh or smile once. Things that seemed like they might be there to be funny, I found depressing and over-o ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Not impressed by Finkler 21 188 Dec 28, 2016 08:08PM  
Jewish readers: did you relate and like this book? 8 83 May 31, 2014 03:38PM  
Interview with Harold Jacobson at Toronto Public Library 1 30 Apr 07, 2011 08:00AM  
Howard Jacobson answering questions on Classic FM's Facebook Page this Sunday 1 15 Nov 25, 2010 08:47AM  
  • Saville
  • Something to Answer For
  • Holiday
  • The Elected Member
  • G.
  • The Old Devils
  • Rites of Passage (To the Ends of the Earth, #1)
  • In a Free State
  • The Conservationist
  • How Late It Was, How Late
  • Offshore
  • Staying On
  • The Siege of Krishnapur
  • Heat and Dust
  • Moon Tiger
  • Last Orders
  • In a Strange Room
  • Sacred Hunger
Howard Jacobson was born in Manchester, England, and educated at Cambridge. His many novels include The Mighty Walzer (winner of the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize), Who’s Sorry Now? and Kalooki Nights (both longlisted for the Man Booker Prize), and, most recently, The Act of Love. Jacobson is also a respected critic and broadcaster, and writes a weekly column for the Independent. He lives in ...more
More about Howard Jacobson...

Share This Book

“How do you go on knowing that you will never again - not ever, ever - see the person you have loved? How do you survive a single hour, a single minute, a single second of that knowledge? How do you hold yourself together?” 26 likes
“Hephzibah normally left the dishes until the next day. Piled up in the sink so that it was near impossible to fill a kettle. And what the sink wouldn't take would stay on the kitchen table. Treslove liked that about her. She didn't believe they had to clean up after every excess. There wasn't a price to pay for pleasure.” 10 likes
More quotes…