I recently set myself the goal of reading through all the Man Booker prize winners. I decided to start on the most recent winners and work backwards as some of the earlier winners are hard to find. The Finkler Question is the 2010 winner and it left me wishing I had tried to look a little harder for the earlier winners because I grew to dislike this book so heartily I couldn’t even finish it. I gave it to page 145 or so and finally gave up. Not a very auspicious beginning to my quest.
The Finkler Question is one of those literary novels that is admirably written and explores big ideas but doesn’t have anything that could be called a plot. The lack of plot wasn’t the major problem for me however, the major problem was the utterly charmless, and often despicable characters of which I could make little sense. Julian Treslove, one of the main characters, is so utterly bizarre and reprehensible – he chronically dates ill-looking women he dreams of marrying because his ultimate dream in life is of holding his wife’s hand as she dies. He is jealous of his two widowed friend not just for their lost wives but also of their Judaism. He works as a generic celebrity look-alike. I was so convinced he was a totally weird half-wit that when he actually spoke and the words coming out of his mouth were intelligent and normal I was so shocked it knocked me right out of what there was of a story.
I’m sure I underappreciated some deeper meaning about identity and it is obviously a well written book but bottom line it was definitely not my cup of tea.