Set in the future – 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.
Two people fall in love, not yet knowing where they have come from or where they are going. Kevern doesn’t know why his father always drew two fingers across his lips when he said a world starting with a J. It wasn’t then, and isn’t now, the time or place to be asking questions. Ailinn too has grown up in the dark about who she was or where she came from. On their first date Kevern kisses the bruises under her eyes. He doesn’t ask who hurt her. Brutality has grown commonplace. They aren’t sure if they have fallen in love of their own accord, or whether they’ve been pushed into each other’s arms. But who would have pushed them, and why?
Hanging over the lives of all the characters in this novel is a momentous catastrophe – a past event shrouded in suspicion, denial and apology, now referred to as What Happened, If It Happened.
J is a novel to be talked about in the same breath as Nineteen Eighty-Four and Brave New World, thought-provoking and life-changing. It is like no other novel that Howard Jacobson has written.
Shortlisted for the 2014 Man Booker Prize for Fiction.
“To say J is unlike any other novel Jacobson has written would be misleading: the same ferocious wit runs throughout… That said, comparisons do not do full justice to Jacobson’s achievement in what may well come to be seen as the dystopian British novel of its times.” John Burnside, Guardian
“A snarling, effervescent and ambitious philosophical work of fiction… Jacobson’s triumph is to craft a novel that is poignant as well as troubling.” James Kidd, Independent
“Jacobson once jokingly referred to himself as a Jewish Jane Austen. Here he reinvents himself as a Jewish Aldous Huxley – and displays mastery in the role.” Max Davidson, Mail on Sunday
“Jacobson…goes from strength to strength.” William Leith, Evening Standard
“Mystifying, serious and blackly funny.” Max Liu, Independent on Sunday