Book choice for August 2013

Kalooki Nights [suggested by Noel Fagan]

Kalooki Nights

[Originally suggested in September 2011 (and June 2012) by... er... Noel - this entry copied from there]
Kalooki Nights is a loosely biographical story of Maxie Glickman, a post-war Mancunian Jew.

The central theme [centres] around victimhood and minority identity when the witchhunt moves elsewhere. Maxie and his schoolfriends soon learn deep anger at the treatment of the Jews in the war and exert enormous energy hating the war criminals. To justify their anger at events they never witnessed, they hunt for antisemitism in all around them. When they don't succeed, they seem to annoy others in order to provike reactions that can be seen as anti-semitism. This is exemplified in Maxies choice of wives and girlfriends, most of whom are anodyne at best but provoked into reaction against Maxie's constant self-pity and reference back to Jewsih themes. There is an amusing contrast on display in the form of Maxie's sister's man - an Irishman (sorry, the name escapes me), who is very eager to learn Jewish ways and frustrated when he never quite succeeds.

This is an interesting premise - how do members of an oppressed minority react when the oppression stops? Do members integrate with the whole, as some characters do, or do they continue to act the role of the victim, becoming increasingly frustrated as sympathy evaporates? But the premise might have been brought to denouement in half the number of pages. Although Kalooki Nights did have moments of humour in the early encounters, it became repetitive and dull. Not even the intrigue about Maxie's friend Manny (who had gassed his parents) was enough to sustain interest. I did read on to the bitter end (and there was much bitterness to be got through in the process), but I'm not sure it repaid the effort. [review by MisterHobgoblin writing on Amazon - one, it has to be said, of a number of less than glowing reviews all of which comment adversely on the length of the text]

About the Author

Wikipedia page.
Howard Jacobson is also a columnist for the Independent newspaper.

 

Shortlisted for this month

'Normal Rules' applied to the selections for this month, which were all presented by Noel. His other choices were:

Stoner

Stoner

William Stoner enters the University of Missouri at nineteen to study agriculture. A seminar on English literature changes his life, and he never returns to work on his father's farm. Stoner becomes a teacher. He marries the wrong woman. His life is quiet, and after his death his colleagues remember him rarely.

Yet with truthfulness, compassion and intense power, this novel uncovers a story of universal value. Stoner tells of the conflicts, defeats and victories of the human race that pass unrecorded by history, and reclaims the significance of an individual life. A reading experience like no other, itself a paean to the power of literature, it is a novel to be savoured. [Product description from Amazon]

The book has a Wikipedia entry.

About the Author

Wikipedia entry.

Before I Go To Sleep

Before I Go To Sleep

[Originally suggested in March 2012 - this entry copied from there]
The central character of this haunting first novel is Christine, a woman who wakes up each morning with her mind trapped years in the past, and no recent memories with which to make sense of her world. Each day she must be told that the man she is living with is her husband, and so much more about her life since her memories stopped, and each day, relive the heartbreaks and some of the happy moments as if they were happening anew. Gradually, with the help of a doctor, Christine manages to reconnect some of her past life using a journal to record what she knows about her life, and the writer cleverly puts the reader into the position of Christine, as she reads this journal and tries to make sense of the present in the context of her past. Our memories are an integral part of who we are, and the way we connect one day with the next. Without them, life is bleak, disconnected and confused. The writer really does convey the tragedy of amnesia very well, and on top of this has created a cleverly structured and menacing thriller. The pages turned quickly and easily and although the twist in the plot is perhaps relatively easy to guess it still feels shocking when it is revealed. [joc66 writing on Amazon]

Wikipedia page.
Facebook page.
Book page on author's website.

About the Author

Wikipedia page.
Author's website.

 

Previous Months' Book Choices

2013

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2012

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2011

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2010

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2008

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2007

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2006

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