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


2.93  ·  Rating details ·  3,438 ratings  ·  560 reviews
Kevern doesn’t know why his father made him put two finger across his lips whenever he began a word with a J. It wasn’t then, and isn’t now, the time or place for asking questions. Ailinn, too, has grown up in the dark about who she is and where she comes from. The past is a dangerous country, not to be visited or talked about.

She is new to the village; Kevern has lived he
Hardcover, 327 pages
Published September 1st 2014 by Hamish Hamilton Canada
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.
This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 2.93  · 
Rating details
 ·  3,438 ratings  ·  560 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of J
Howard Jacobson's latest novel left me scratching my head. Having never read Jacobson before I had no idea what to expect - I only knew that he has previously won the Booker in 2010 for The Finkler Question.

In a short introductory blurb, J is described as "like no other novel Howard Jacobson has written", a dystopian novel "to be talked about in the same breath as Nineteen Eighty-Four and Brave New World" - which made me wonder if the person who wrote the blurb has read either of these books.

Emma Sea
well-written, award-nominated, insightfully critical re the notion of the 'other' and the role of historical consciousness, and dull as dishwater.

Ron Charles
Sep 12, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: apocalyptic
Howard Jacobson is getting harder to ignore. The 72-year-old British writer has been publishing witty novels for more than three decades and attracting the kind of critical acclaim earned by stars like Peter Carey and Margaret Atwood. But he remains stubbornly obscure in the United States. “The Finkler Question,” his cerebral satire about anti-Semitism, won the 2010 Booker Prize (he’d been longlisted twice before), and his new novel, “J,” was on the short­list for this year’s prize. All that suc ...more
Howard Jacobson won the Booker Prize in 2010 with The Finkler Question; J - described as both 'a dystopian novel like no other' and 'like no other novel Howard Jacobson has written', along with platitudes like 'thought-provoking and life-changing' - is on the longlist for this year's prize. When I read the premise of J, I assumed it would be a serious dystopia, especially since the blurb makes comparisons to Nineteen Eighty-Four and Brave New World. (Actually it says 'J is a novel to be talked a ...more
Angela M

I wanted to give this more than three stars because I started out liking this a lot. I had the feeling from the beginning that there was something important about this story and I still feel that way. It was funny at times , sad at times , ominous most of the time .WHAT HAPPENED, IF IT HAPPENED, seems to have happened , if it happened not too long ago from the present time in the story and that’s disconcerting at the very least .

I was intrigued about what it was and although, it's kind of ambig
Scott Rhee
German philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel once said, “We learn from history that we don’t learn from history,” which, besides being a clever bit of wordplay, is also profoundly true.

Those that believe that the Holocaust could never happen again---HERE and NOW---are clearly delusional and/or naively optimistic. A rising tide of Neo-Nazism in Europe, growing anti-semitic hostilities in the Middle East, the Islamic State a.k.a. ISIS: anyone with eyes and ears can see the same nationalism and
switterbug (Betsey)
I work in a milieu of children, many who have a thought disorder. J is a book about a NATION with a mandatory thought disorder, (at least most of the citizens). The theme of J, which crops up frequently, is, WHAT HAPPENED, IF IT HAPPENED, which would indicate a knowingness, but, for the most part, Jacobson's dystopian world, which takes place in the future (but still the 21st century), is constructed on a foundation of a kind of schizophrenic behavior, but complicit and fraught.

The denial-of-rea
Tori (InToriLex)
Find this and other Reviews at InToriLex

This was a disappointing read, sifting through it's confusing dialogue, and philosophy felt like work. I kept reading despite boredom because I was hoping I could glean enough about a dystopian society to make it worthwhile. Instead the plot takes a back seat to the authors need to overwrite. Everything was described a bit too much, way more telling than showing. When things did happen, the reaction to it was highlighted more than the thing,
Oct 19, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: man-booker-nod, 2014
*This review will be spoilery.* So far as dystopian government messaging goes, this is not the menace of Big Brother is Watching You, but as it constantly scrolls across the bottom of television screens, the attempt at control is the same:

Smile at your neighbour, cherish your spouse, listen to ballads, go to musicals, use your telephone, converse, explain, listen, agree, apologise. Talk is better than silence, the sung word is better than the written, but nothing is better than love.

In Howar
Roger Brunyate
What's in a Name? A Masterpiece!

It is the names you notice first: Ailinn Solomons, Kevern Cohen, Densdell Kroplik, Breoc Heilbron, Eoghan Rosenthal, and of course the vicar, Golvan Shlagman. All the inhabitants in Port Reuben (formerly Ludgvennock) combine Jewish surnames with Celtic or Anglo-Saxon given names. Odd, to say the least. Howard Jacobson is utterly masterly in the control he shows in this extraordinary novel. To this and other questions, he gives the answers only very slowly, but he
Mar 15, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This was a book to like, love even. Booker prize nominee, tale of soft apocalypse in particular relation to Jews, theme that, although ever present, remains unspoken of, maybe as a stylistic gesture, maybe precisely because the apocalypse was so soft, it didn't ban so much as discouraged (but did it ever, even the letter J is muted over, toned down and smudged, hence the cover), it promoted overt and incessant apologizing, forgetting the past and letting it go, creating for a bleak, dishwater du ...more
Lisa Reads & Reviews
Jul 22, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literary

I enjoyed this literary, speculative fiction novel--primarily for the courtship between Ailinn Solomons and Kevern Cohen. The humorous narrative bounces between the two characters, presenting insight into the potential complexity of relationships. Ailinn and Kevern's reactions are wonderfully human, twisted, confused, and painfully tortured by mutual need which evolves into love.

But can love survive the story which frames J: A Novel? That is the darker issue. Open to interpretation, of course,
I very much enjoyed Jacobson's The Finkler Question and so was quite excited when his latest was part of the 2014 Man Booker short-list. However, I was disappointed and then some. Certainly there are plenty of glowing reviews of the novel so I may be in the minority yet I felt no enthusiasm at all for it. I feel rather annoyed that critics go into hyper-praise mode when a mainstream writer branches out into genre fiction such as a dystopian future while constantly snubbing their noses at genre f ...more
A peculiar dystopia that posits a second racially or theologically inspired Holocaust. J marks an unusual turn for Jacobson; it has some of his trademark elements – odd names, humorous metaphors, and Semitic references – but still seems a strange departure after The Finkler Question and Zoo Time.

Jacobson never reveals precisely what happened (if it happened), but it seems a bit like another Holocaust in the 2010s: something no one ever thought could happen again, and certainly not here.“Beliefs
Rusty's Ghost Engine (also known as.......... Jinky Spring)
I can kinda see why this isn't rated very highly, I find the writing really boring and hard to connect to and I could not make myself interested in the story even for the first day of reading it. Not for me. ...more
Aug 15, 2014 added it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Antonomasia by: Booker longlist 2014
A bizarrely, paradoxically, cosy dystopia. The tone of the writing is quite untypical for the setting. It’s definitely not free from horrors, but the central couple, Ailinn and Kevern, are sweet, strange, lonely people like characters from a Belle & Sebastian song, and their scenes have a similar feel.

It’s easy to understand this as Jacobson’s first venture into a new genre after writing more or less domestic comic novels. Its doesn't have the typical creeping menace of the post-apocalyptic, th
Oct 11, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dystopian
My problem with this novel was the completely vague world it was set in.

I realise that was sort of the point. There are references to WHAT HAPPENED, IF IT HAPPENED (always capitalised) throughout the story, and the hints don't really start to make any sense until about 75% of the way through, but even then, the event that caused the dystopia the characters are living in is never clear. It's never explicitly stated, anywhere in the novel.

Even if we aren't supposed to know the point of origin, w
Oct 12, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
In this novel, author Howard Jacobsen has attempted to create a dystopian society which is both very different to the world we live in and yet strangely familiar. The storyline revolves around a romance – of sorts – between Kevern Cohen and Ailinn Solomons, who meet in the small, seaside town of Port Reuben. As the story progresses, we begin to learn about Kevern and his family. The parents who seem to live hoarding secrets; the forbidden words and memories which always go unvoiced – Kevern copi ...more
Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer
Dystopian novel set in an unnamed country where culture is overshadowed by a possible event in the past referred to mainly as “"what Happened if it happened". Although it is never really spelled out it is clear (to the reader perhaps more than to the characters) that this was a all-encompassing anti-Semitic massacre/mass expulsion of the Jews. Although the country is unnamed (albeit it seems Celtic of some form) the period is perhaps closer to our own with “what happened if it happened” followin ...more
Jenn Morgans
Aug 17, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley, literature
This is a little bit of a difficult book to review, as it's one that explores the idea of collective guilt and collective forgetting, and therefore to mention even the most basic details of the plot would be to end up changing the way that you approach and read it. Jacobson has created a thoughtful and unsettling near future in J, one where a terrible event that changed everything is being atoned for by everyone - if they're even willing to accept that it happened at all. What is known and not k ...more
Lolly K Dandeneau
Jul 22, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There was a lot of beautiful thinking in the novel. The allegory of the frog fits perfectly inside this story. Happy little frog, slowly being killed but so discreetly and happily that he doesn't even notice. Banned information, forbidden words and keepsakes, antiques that aren't allowed, a forgetting or 'letting go' of history seems to be the theme but I could be wrong. The story is certainly confusing at times and I felt I was lost at sea. What the heck did happen to get people to this point a ...more
Oct 25, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014-reads
If it happened in this book then I sure as hell missed it. Words simply cannot describe how much I hated this book. The problem wasn't the writing, it is no YA amateur attempt but the story is so bland I could not engage in the plot and far worse you are given so few details on the surroundings you just can't plant your literary feet to run with it. It rambles on and on, there may have been some deep philosophy going on but if there was it is so hidden that the average reader is not going to cat ...more
Oct 27, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: man-booker
This is a book written in 19th Century style with 21st Century sardonic wit. With few exceptions, it failed to do either well, much less successfully combine the two. I read it because it was nominated for a Man Booker Prize, but it is difficult to discern what made it worthy of said award. The writing was convoluted, an excess of obscure vocabulary was invoked, the lack of clarity about almost everything in this dystopian story muddled the few cleverly worded phrases, and the banality of uninte ...more
Aug 12, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What an engaging and thought-provoking book! I really enjoyed this read and loved the characters. The only thing I did not like was the ending. (I won't tell you why!)

However, this dystopia is also an excellent discussion of the roots and maybe the necessity of anti-Semitism or anti-anything for that matter. Do we have to have an "enemy"? A "them" to blame for all our ills? Will we attack our own if not? These are some of the questions this book poses.
Feb 01, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was my first Howard Jacobson novel and I feel I went in with no expectations. I may have enjoyed it more if I had been more familiar with his other work so I would have “caught on” sooner. As it is I feel like reviewing this novel is like reviewing two different stories. The first deserves two stars at best. The second, possible five stars!

The novel is set in the not-to-distant future and in an undisclosed country. I think it’s England, but it doesn’t really matter. Something horrific has h
Audrey Mash
Sep 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Confession time: I wasn't a fan of The Finkler Question. It is probably a book I should revisit, but when it came out I found it deeply depressing as opposed to the comic work it was hailed as. So initially the feelings of upset which J stirred in me led me to suspect that I just wasn't a Howard Jacobson fan. Different strokes for different folks, right? Maybe not. As I got further into the book, the thought entered my head that perhaps this dystopian novel was deliberately unsettling. That it w ...more
Feb 07, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dystopia
Such a difficult book to rate and to describe. It actually took me all of January and part of February to read as I kept putting it down and reading vampire trash in between. I could not engage with the characters, it was moving along with the pace of a wet Sunday in Eltham and didn't seem to know whether it was a romance, a satire or a failed comedy. Or at least, I couldn't tell.

But I had a niggling feeling that this vagueness, this lack, was actually the point: that this dystopian world was no
quite an interesting book though it needs very close reading to make sense - locally though beautifully written so it absorbs you

after going through it carefully again, I have to say that I am mixed - beautiful writing definitely, but its storyline ultimately doesn't make sense in context and I just could not buy it; if it were set somewhere else in the world where large scale murders were or are the order of the day, maybe, but in England, no way...
Jul 23, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars. This is a hard book to rate. I found it to be confusing and the ending was completely unsatisfying but it was also engaging and very well written. This made the Booker shortlist and probably stands a good chance of winning.
 Charlie - A Reading Machine
A very unique reading experience with a rich and fully realised dystopian future unlike anything I've previously encountered. Jacobson delivers an intelligent, complex and emotional tale.....again.

Book provided by Blogging for Books in exchange for review.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
The Man Booker 20...: J - Howard Jacobson 3 84 Dec 15, 2014 08:37PM  
question... 2 46 Oct 17, 2014 06:22AM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • To Rise Again at a Decent Hour
  • How to Be Both
  • Waste Tide
  • Aunts Aren't Gentlemen (Jeeves, #15)
  • Gloaming (Wonder Tales #2)
  • Sisters
  • Harvest
  • A Spell of Winter
  • Hand Me Down World
  • The Lives of Others
  • The Mirror & the Light
  • I Am Not Your Baby Mother
  • An Excess Male
  • Daddy
  • Blueeyedboy
  • The Dark World
  • Το Ασχημόπαιδο
  • Bill, The Galactic Hero (Bill, The Galactic Hero, #1)
See similar books…
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

Related Articles

  Here at Goodreads, we've noticed that a funny thing tends to happen when we start talking about audiobooks: The same few titles get...
59 likes · 15 comments
No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »
“An artist owed a duty to nothing except his own irresponsibility. It was OK for an artist to frolic in the water, no matter how bloody the waves or how high the tide rose. An ethicist had an obligation to drown.” 4 likes
“But the shouts and smell of smoke had a powerful effect on me. I don't say they excited me, but they gave a sort of universality to what I was feeling. I am who I am because I am not them - well, I was not alone in feeling that. We were all who we were because we were not them. So why did that translate into hate? I don't know, but when everyone's feeling the same thing it can appear to be reasonableness.” 1 likes
More quotes…