In J, it feels as though Jacobson is taking the same turn as Pinter did in his later works.
Unlike his playful, satirical novels, J is a love story set in a dystopian society, where collective memory has been manipulated following ‘WHAT HAPPENED, IF IT HAPPENED’ – being a violent pogrom of 200,000 Jews.
Kevern doesn’t know why his father would always draw two fingers across his lips when he said a word starting with J and Ailinn has grown up in the dark, not knowing who she is or where she came from. Yet, they’re now finding solace in each others’ arms.
It sometimes feels that the lovers’ relationship is used as a prism through which to put forward a message, so reading can become stodgy.
But you can’t help feeling that this is an important book, and it’s hugely compelling with wonderful, moving lines, such as: ‘How does a mother say goodbye to her child for the last time? What’s the kindest thing – to hang on until you are prised apart by bayonet, or to turn on your heels and go without once looking back? What are the rules of heartbreak? What is the etiquette?’
A novel worthy of its status as Booker long-listee.