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Live a Little

3.36  ·  Rating details ·  512 ratings  ·  98 reviews
At the age of ninety-something, Beryl Dusinbery is forgetting everything – including her own children. She spends her days stitching morbid samplers and tormenting her two long-suffering carers, Nastya and Euphoria, with tangled stories of her husbands and love affairs.

Shimi Carmelli can do up his own buttons, walks without the aid of a frame and speaks without spitting.
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published July 4th 2019 by Jonathan Cape
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Average rating 3.36  · 
Rating details
 ·  512 ratings  ·  98 reviews

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Diane S ☔
Not going to rate this as I only made it to page ninty.
Some of the parts I read were witty but on the whole i just can't connect to this book.
Sid Nuncius
Jul 06, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed Live A Little very much in the end. It is witty, insightful and rather touching, but I found the first two-thirds or so a bit of a slog.

This is a story of two people in their eighties and nineties respectively who have very different pasts and views of themselves. Shimi Carmelli is cursed with remembering almost everything – especially his shames and embarrassments which are many. (“A butterfly doesn’t beat its wings in China without Shimi feeling it is his fault or at leasts reflects
Laura Spira
Jul 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
Somewhat to my surprise, I enjoyed this book immensely. I had not anticipated that reading about very old people and their relationships could be quite so joyous. Jacobson has created two central characters, Shimi and Beryl, who will stay in my mind for a long time. Shimi, in appearance, is much like my grandfather, but a far more tortured soul than he ever was. Beryl is a monstrous invention, arrantly self-centred and a most neglectful mother, although we can never be sure about any of the hist ...more
Greville Waterman
Jun 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
I tried... Oh how hard I tried. That seems to be my experience with so many of Howard Jacobson's book. I loved some of his early books as well as The Mighty Walzer which was poignant and hilarious but I have struggled ever since.

Maybe it is me but I am happy to work at a book and do not expect instant gratification but I just could not immerse myself in "Live a Little".

There were some lovely descriptions of North London Jewish life which were accurate and acute but I found the plot confusing and
Kathryn Bashaar
Beryl Dusinbery and Shini Carmelli are two very elderly London residents, and very different from each other.

Beryl is slowly losing her memories to dementia. She is a self-centered, talkative, demanding woman who freely admits that she was a neglectful mother and can't even quite remember how many children she has nor exactly which lover or husband was the father of each child. She seems to be quite well-to-do, as she has two caregivers who see to her needs around the clock. Euphoria is a sweet
Michael  Berquist
Jul 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: first-reads
I received a free copy of “Live A Little” from Goodreads in exchange for an honest review.

This is the smartest book I have read in 2019. It is no surprise that Jacobson has won and been nominated for the Man Booker Prize multiple times. His characterizations here are excellent. Beryl Dusinbery is an insightful and acerbic character who had me cracking up and rereading her pointed accusations in equal measure.
The writing is beautiful. Take the time to look up the stunning language Jacobsen utili
Stephen Goldenberg
I always feel that reading a Howard Jacobson novel is like eating a fancy dessert in a restaurant. There’s more pleasure in looking at it on the plate than actually eating it. And when you have eaten it, it leaves you with a feeling of over-indulgence and sickliness.
Ostensibly, it’s a story about a romance(?) between two nonagenarians, Beryl and Shimi. But, as with most Jacobson novels, this is all about character with very little story. Beryl and Shimi don’t even meet until two thirds of the w
Oct 21, 2019 rated it liked it
Hilarious, funny, sad, and elegiac, but it is too drawn out; thus, after a pleasant surprise of the strong beginning and good character development, it turns into a slow-churning, even somewhat redundant narrative.

I do like the modern trend of book focusing on octo and nonogenarians. We do need more books like that while the modern fictional trend focuses mostly on titillating YA or pathetic genre books. We do need more brooding books of self-discovery and meditation, but despite checking all t
Rana Z
May 21, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: read-2019
ARC for Novel Neighbor.
I don't know how to go about writing a review for this book. I just didn't get it. It is either a bad book or it's way above my reading level. It was confusing and full of stories that felt they were all going to connect but really didn't. That may have been on purpose given the main character Beryl Dusinbery is older and forgetting major parts of her life.

"Here/there, life/death-same difference."
The tone and feelings of the main character all came to a head for me in this
Jul 04, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
It is unusual for me to give up and not finish a book. However, I was actually getting angry at the time I was wasting looking for a purpose in Jacobson's tedious and unsympathetic account of Beryl and her dementia. I "surrendered" before discovering how Beryl's story would link to that of the elderly Shimi. Apparently, his trying on his mother's underpants when he was a child would have some lasting impact on his lonely life. Ridiculous, not at all funny, and missing the philosophical astutenes ...more
Nov 19, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Four stars for the audiobook with its outstanding narration, the story itself would be a three.

Shimi tried on his mother's bloomers at age ten (once); we learn that at age 90 he's been haunted by this his entire life. His mother died when he was a child, shortly thereafter his father abandoned Shimi and his brother Ephraim. The brothers last met in 1959; Shimi attends his brother's funeral in 2019 out of curiosity. He is rather a nebbish (sad sack).

Beryl (slightly younger than Shimi) has at le
Feb 27, 2020 rated it it was ok
Picked up and put down, and then eventually finished. 2 very elderly Londoners meet and join forces. Some humour, especially in the comments by Nastya, a carer, but this was rather a plod.
Sumit Bhagat
Feb 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: own, fiction
Every year when I travel all the way to Jaipur for the Literature Festival, I travel with no expectations but one - to discover a new author by some stroke of perchance or serendipity. And if my past experience were to bear any witness, in the process of that discovery, you not only come back with a new name, you also inherit a new person, a new idea, a new way of looking at the world. I can't thank the festival enough for introducing me to Jhumpa Lahiri, Andre Aciman, and now, Howard Jacobsen.

It’s been a while since I tried a Jacobson novel, and the idea of a comic romance between 90-somethings appealed to me, so I thought I’d give his work another go. The first chapter, about Beryl and her morbid cross-stitch sayings, was entertaining enough, but the second chapter quickly lost me.
Sep 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is my first Howard Jacobson read and I was absolutely charmed by his characters. Their witty and honest conversations not only had me using a dictionary but wanting more.
Stuart Crowther
Mar 22, 2020 rated it liked it
Great description of people and their history but the story didn’t grip me
Angelique Simonsen
Jan 08, 2020 rated it did not like it
Did not enjoy the characters at all. Really hard to read a novel when you don't like the characters ...more
Feb 16, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: did-not-finish
Did not finish. Picked up based on the cover. I got to page 84 and decided I have too many other books on my to read list. The writing is fine but the two main characters are not grabbing me. Maybe someday I’ll come back to this and see. I have too many other books I want to read.
Paula Ackley
Jan 10, 2020 rated it did not like it
I have to stop entering any giveaway which has brilliant, witty, humorous, etc. in the book's description. I never seem to find them funny and Mr. Jacobson's Live a Little is no exception. Long, yes. Rambling, yes. Boring, yes. Didn't get it, slogged through, wishing it was over, struggled with, people I didn't like and couldn't connect with-yes, yes, yes, yes and yes. Should I have learned my lesson from other books that I don't have to finish reading a book if I don't like it? YES! I always wo ...more
Susan Aldridge
Nov 25, 2019 rated it it was ok
I'm only not giving this one star because that seems a bit mean. I enjoyed Howard Jacobson's The Finkler Question, which won the Man Booker Prize in 2010, and Live a Little was on the Guardian books to look forward to in 2019 list, several of which I have read and enjoyed. But a couple of hours in (I had this on audible), I was ready to pack it in and only persisted because I looked up a couple of reviews, which were very positive. But yesterday, as I struggled through the last hour while walkin ...more
Chris Perera
Nov 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
Cards on the table (and anyone planning to read this novel will soon discover why that is an appropriate expression) I am a big fan of Howard Jacobson’s work. In Shimi Carmelli and Beryl Dusinbery, Jacobson has created two well-worn and deliciously plausible nonagenarians, whose ancient skins have endured vastly differing experiences of life. As ever with Jacobson, it is the use of language (particularly when the banter becomes witty) and juggling of ideas (in relation to personal philosophies a ...more
Lisa Oakes
Sep 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
I love the nontraditional characters in this book. So many novels that contain some form of love story between two characters are about youthful romantic relationships. I think the characters in this book being aged to near death made it a surprisingly wonderful read. There's so much wisdom, habit, and resignation that can come only from being alive well past your 80's. The way Howard Jacobson described both Beryl's recounted history of lovers and Shimi's obsessive humiliation and self-deprecati ...more
Julie Trapp
Dec 30, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2019-books
1st half of the book is Beryl (90+) and Shimi (OLD) alternating chapters giving us background on their lives so far. BORING!!!! The 2nd half is when they meet. She can't remember anything (people, places, things) and is a mean old bag to her 2 caretakers. He remembers everything that ever happened to him and is (seemingly, to him) the only eligible bachelor in London who can walk without a cane, doesn't spit when he talks and can button his own clothes. This was so boring and they were both anno ...more
Aug 06, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Thanks to Random House UK and NetGalley for the Advance Review Copy in exchange for an honest review.

This review is based on my own personal enjoyment of the novel and not how well written it is.

I'm not going to beat around the bush, I just wasn't feeling it. I loved some of the turns of phrase and the writing was witty, if rather caustically so, but I couldn't connect with this book. I enjoyed the writer's sense of humour but I couldn't engage with either of the main characters or the story.

Sep 30, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Goodreads Giveaway win - I started it, but the story didn't make much sense to me. Only got about 60 pages in to it - the main characters were pretty annoying and their little "quirks" (she is losing her memory and her main hobbies are embroidering things with death related quotes and abusing her caregivers - his seems to be outdoor peeing and reading tarot cards for lonely, rich widows..) just couldn't hold me. I rarely put a book down and say "nah", but this was one of them. Just didn't care e ...more
Elizabeth King
Aug 31, 2019 rated it did not like it
Feels unfair giving a rating because I gave up rather than finished. I found the writing really hard work - disjointed and too many different perspectives at once. It jarred on me and it was too much of a slog. Maybe if I’d found any of the characters compelling I would have stuck with it but they were all unpleasant and I didn’t want to stay in their heads an6 longer.
Judy Faltz
Oct 23, 2019 rated it liked it
Loved the language - the characters, not so much.
Can’t review a book that I didn’t bring myself to finish but, it’s not to say I didn’t give this one a chance. I Got and as far as 120 pages I simply could not encourage myself any further. No don’t get me wrong. This is on to say that this book is unreadable. It is to say, rather, then I wanted to begin the year with something a little more impactful. And this book just wasn’t meeting the mark.

I have to admit, I really enjoyed the wit and humour that Howard Jacobson brings to the table. His sen
Jenny Esots
Jul 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
I was captivated from the start by Mrs Beryl and Shimi.
There are plenty of matriarchs out there like Beryl who have memories that slide in and out of time.
But retain the ability to inflict harm by well chosen barbs.
I have heard criticism that the novel is misogynistic - perhaps by portraying Beryl as the 'bad' mother. She is certainly not conventional, abandoning her first son - in what remains unclear circumstances, and having vague remembrances of her other liaisons - at one stage keeping a ra

This book is partially a tale of a really old woman with a phenomenal vocabulary who is quirky and at times at a loss for words due to her memory but who nonetheless keeps her personality. It focuses on what she remembers from her past and the people, including her sons that she deals with in her current life. It is also about a dappper elderly man who is a cartomancer who never got over something he did as a child. It goes back and forth between their lives and then later in the story it focuse
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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

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