Cover image for J : a novel
J : a novel
Jacobson, Howard, author.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Hogarth, [2014]
Physical Description:
342 pages ; 25 cm
"A profound, darkly comedic parable set in a future where collective memory has vanished following a historic catastrophe, and one young couple's love affair could have shattering consequences for the human race. In a world where the past is a dangerous country, not to be talked about or visited, J is a love story of incomparable strangeness, both tender and terrifying. After the devastation of WHAT HAPPENED, IF IT HAPPENED, all that should remain is peace and prosperity. Everyone knows his or her place; all actions are out in the open. But Esme Nussbaum has seen the distorted realities, the fissures that have only widened in the twenty-plus years since she was forced to resign from her position at the monitor of the Public Mood. Now, Esme finds something strange and special developing in a romance between Ailinn Solomons and Kevern Cohen. As this unusual pair's actions draw them into ever-increasing danger, Esme realizes she must do everything in her power to keep them together--whatever the cost. With a sense of the dramatic sweep of Michael Ondaatje and the dystopian, literary sensibility of Margaret Atwood, Howard Jacobson's J is an astonishing feat of fiction. In this exquisitely written, beautifully playful and imaginative, and terribly heart-breaking work, Jacobson gathers his prodigious gifts for the crowning achievement of a remarkable career"--
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Central Library FICTION Adult Fiction Central Library
Clarence Library FICTION Adult Fiction Open Shelf
Crane Branch Library FICTION Adult Fiction Open Shelf
Kenilworth Library FICTION Adult Fiction Open Shelf
Kenmore Library FICTION Adult Fiction Open Shelf
Lancaster Library FICTION Adult Fiction Open Shelf
Julia Boyer Reinstein Library FICTION Adult Fiction Open Shelf

On Order



Finalist for the 2014 Man Booker Prize

" J is a snarling, effervescent, and ambitious philosophical work of fiction that poses unsettling questions about our sense of history, and our self-satisfied orthodoxies. Jacobson's triumph is to craft a novel that is poignant as well as troubling from the debris." -- Independent (UK)
Man Booker Prize-winner Howard Jacobson's brilliant and profound new novel, J , "invites comparison with George Orwell's 1984 and Aldous Huxley's Brave New World " ( Sunday Times , London). Set in a world where collective memory has vanished and the past is a dangerous country, not to be talked about or visited, J is a boldly inventive love story, both tender and terrifying.
     Kevern Cohen doesn't know why his father always drew two fingers across his lips when he said a word starting with a J. It wasn't then, and isn't now, the time or place to be asking questions. When the extravagantly beautiful Ailinn Solomons arrives in his village by a sea that laps no other shore, Kevern is instantly drawn to her. Although mistrustful by nature, the two become linked as if they were meant for each other. Together, they form a refuge from the commonplace brutality that is the legacy of a historic catastrophe shrouded in suspicion, denial, and apology, simply referred to as WHAT HAPPENED, IF IT HAPPENED. To Ailinn's guardian, Esme Nussbaum, Ailinn and Kevern are fragile shoots of hopefulness. As this unusual pair's actions draw them into ever-increasing danger, Esme is determined to keep them together--whatever the cost.
     In this stunning, evocative, and terribly heartbreaking work, where one couple's love affair could have shattering consequences for the human race, Howard Jacobson gathers his prodigious gifts for the crowning achievement of a remarkable career.

Author Notes

Howard Jacobson was born on August 25, 1942 in Manchester, England. He is a Man Booker Prize-winning British author and journalist. He studied English at Downing College, Cambridge under F. R. Leavis. He lectured for three years at the University of Sydney before returning to England to teach at Selwyn College, Cambridge. His later teaching posts included a period at Wolverhampton Polytechnic from 1974 to 1980. His time at Wolverhampton was to form the basis of his first novel, Coming from Behind, a campus comedy about a failing polytechnic that plans to merge facilities with a local football club. He also wrote a travel book in 1987, titled In the Land of Oz, which was researched during his time as a visiting academic in Sydney. His fiction, particularly in the six novels he has published since 1998, is characterised chiefly by a discursive and humorous style. His 1999 novel The Mighty Walzer, about a teenage table tennis champion, won the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize for comic writing. In October 2010 Jacobson won the Man Booker Prize for his novel The Finkler Question, which was the first comic novel to win the prize since Kingsley Amis's The Old Devils in 1986.

In 2013 he made The New York Times Best Seller List with his title Whole Rethinking the Science of Nutrition which he co-authored with T. Colin Campbell. He will be at the Oz, New Zealand festival of literature and arts program in 2015 in London.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

*Starred Review* The latest novel from Jacobson (The Finkler Question, 2010) is set in the not-too-distant future, around 50 years after a genocide referred to only as WHAT HAPPENED, IF IT HAPPENED. Since that event, in an attempt to remove sources of discord, much of what relates to the past history books, diaries, family heirlooms has all but disappeared; people have become more isolated; art has been reduced to anodyne ballads and landscape paintings. And, in order to erase all invidious distinctions between the doers and the done-to, surnames have been changed: from Worthington, for example, to Gutkind, from Hinchcliffe to Behrens. In the small seaside village of Port Reuben (names of localities have also been changed), 25-year-old Ailinn Solomons, an orphan, and 40-year-old Kevern Cohen, a wood turner who has inherited his parents' fears, meet and fall in love. As their relationship gathers steam, they begin to suspect that their meeting was no accident and that they are being watched, which in fact they are, by Ofnow, the non-statutory monitor of the Public Mood, which is formulating a strategy to deal with an alarming spike in violence. This is a novel more about ideas than people. Though readers may not feel particularly invested in the characters, they will find plenty to think and talk about in Jacobson's remarkable, disturbing book.--Quinn, Mary Ellen Copyright 2014 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

Jacobson' Booker prize shortlisted dystopian novel is a pastoralist's 1984. Set in a quiet village after a global cataclysm-referred to only as WHAT HAPPENED, IF IT HAPPENED-the novel is initially as much concerned about the eccentrics down at the pub as it is with explaining what befell humankind. It slowly emerges that generations previously, a global movement named Project Ishmael persuaded the survivors to rename themselves, as well as all of the world's places, in order to obliterate all memory of the apocalypse that nearly destroyed civilization. Esme Nussbaum, formerly an analyst with the mysterious Ofnow organization (charged with monitoring public mood), has moved to the village after a near-fatal accident, and befriended Ailinn Solomons, an orphan with no memories of her past. Esme maneuvers Ailinn into a relationship with Kevern Cohen, a local woodcarver who cannot utter the letter J without putting two fingers to his lips. Kevern and Ailinn fall in love, which suits Esme's mysterious reasons for bringing them together. When a woman from the village is found murdered, and Kevern becomes a suspect, this handful of individuals become a proxy for urgent global concerns. Jacobson's (The Finkler Question) fusion of village comedy and dystopian sci-fi is a tour de force, although in many ways the story Jacobson doesn't tell is more interesting than the one he does. The chilling sketch that finally coheres about the fate that has befallen humanity may make readers lament not having had a more straightforward approach. Nonetheless, fans of dystopian fiction will find this to be a unique entry in the genre. (Oct.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Google Preview