Book Review: J
ashley | When reading about J by Howard Jacobson on different platforms, I saw it compared to the likes of Margaret Atwood, George Orwell and Aldus Huxley, some pretty heavy-weight comparisons that immediately caught my interest. This was also described as a profound philosophical book, so I was expecting my mind to be blown and my thoughts to be forced open.
I had a hard time getting through this. I do expect that a bit from heavy philosophical books, but I didn’t feel like there was enough pushing me through this one. Jacobson writes in that expectant tone that is sometimes a bit oversaturated, I sometimes had to reread a sentence to fully grasp everything that is being said, which is fine, but I was expecting a philosophical dystopian love story and while I suppose that is what it is at the root of everything, the expected elements that make this philosophical, dystopian or a love story weren’t as impressionable as I anticipated.
The growing love story between Ailinn and Kevern is the core of this novel. And as it should be. Their love story isn’t that of star crossed lovers and it doesn’t contain the childish passion you see in typical YA books, no, it’s a far more sarcastically strange relationship that thrives on not being overly necessary. They love each other, but are constantly questioning the others interest in them. It’s not insecurity, but more, it seems, the result of them both being frightfully independent and not overly needing of a partner. Of course, there was more to this than it seemed and not being necessary was the complete opposite of reality, but they didn’t know that yet. Their conversations were quite thought provoking and more discussions than actual conversations, which was a dynamic I enjoyed. They were also very cynical and suspicious of love, not fully trusting that the other was feeling something they weren’t sure exists. I liked it. I liked them.
But this was confusing, the focus was so much on the love story and their histories that it didn’t start off feeling very dystopian. And though there’s plenty of mention of something having happened and the past being erased, none of that was really looked at in much detail, many people weren’t even sure it actually happened, but I think a little less subtly would have been more interesting. I get that a major theme in this book is nothingness and vagueness is a thing, but I think that was my biggest problem with everything here.
I can see there are some very important parts of this book, things that should be celebrated and what justifies the nomination. I’m sure it might even have a great chance of winning, but I just didn’t enjoy it and don’t think it’s fair to compare it to the aforementioned works that I hold dear to my heart.