J: A Novel

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J portrays a society in wounded stasis after a nebulous catastrophe referred to as “what happened, if it happened.” The protagonist, Kevern, is a loner-woodcarver troubled by his differing nature; he is sorrowful and frightened, while others are filled with a rootless, uncontainable rage. The government seeks to stanch this nationwide ire by outlawing memory and rebellious thoughts, and encouraging atonement for even minor infractions. The mystery begins to unravel when Kevern is introduced to a newcomer by a stranger with unclear intentions.

Jacobson successfully captures a post-war nation burdened by guilt and fear at both the violence and vulnerability that lies within. But he made the unfortunate decision to pour these fraught tensions into a genre that has increasingly attracted the public eye; a readership that expects dystopias to be adorned with glittering and oppressive technological advancements, not built on the thoughts of a self-reflective, self-deprecating protagonist with little interest in others or his surroundings.

This is, undeniably, a well-written novel, and Jacobson touches on fascinating topics such as societal guilt, and identity in relation to ancestry, but it lacks flavor. J will receive academic praise and literary prizes, but will not shine in the commercial spotlight.


Reviewed By:

Author Howard Jacobson
Star Count 3.5/5
Format Hard
Page Count 352 pages
Publisher Hogarth
Publish Date 2014-Oct-14
ISBN 9780553419559
Amazon Buy this Book
Issue January 2015
Category Modern Literature
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