Judas by Amos Oz is one of the shortlisted novels for this year’s Man Booker Prize.
The novel is about a young man called Shmeul. An aethiest and a student he is planning to write a paper about Jewish views on Jesus. During this time his girlfriend Yardena leaves him for her ex boyfriend and he quits school to go and work for a reclusive old man as his companion, and continue work on his paper.
The story alternates between Shmuel’s life in his new home and the paper he is writing. I found it an extremely interesting novel which discussed different religions that despite GCSE RE I wasn’t aware of. For example I had no idea that Jewish people do not believe that Jesus was the son of God. Shmuel’s paper covers an interesting topic, exploring the character of Judas Iscariot and his motivation for Jesus’ crucifixion.
Shmuel is a melancholy character, he finds happiness in nothing, hates loneliness but also doesn’t enjoy himself in company. As his sister writes to him, he talks, lectures but doesn’t have conversations.
I can completely understand why this novel has been shortlisted for the prize. Amos Oz writes to an extremely high quality. His writing is captivating. Although the novel’s pace is slow the subject matter is so interesting that it holds your attention nevertheless.
It is undoubtably a thought provoking and melancholy novel, bringing together issues of war, politics and religion narrated by the story of a young man still trying to find himself and what he would like to do with his life.
The Unseen is on the Man Booker Prize shortlist and attracted my attention because I like to read books about other countries & cultures.
Set on a fictional island called Barrøy just off the coast of the mainland of Norway, it focuses on the family who lives there, also called Barrøy. There is Martin the grandfather still grieving the loss of his wife and struggling to come to terms with the shift of power as he becomes weaker and his son stronger. Hans, son of Martin is a sailor-cum-farmer who wants to make the island and their life better. Maria, his wife is distant and silent, with dreams of her own. Ingrid the daughter is confused, growing up unsure if her life should be as a girl helping her mother in the kitchen and knitting, or out helping her father & grandfather with the nets and fishing. Finally, there’s Barbro, sister of Hans who can’t move from the island over due to some kind of disability which prevents her from reading or learning as fast as the others.
The novel is beautifully written and interesting. While nothing exactly dramatic happened in the book, well, depending on how you look at it. There is a calm serenity to the everyday life of the islanders. From the way they never exactly fit in with the mainlanders, to the way they struggle on lending, struggling through brutal winters and terribly dry summers. Sometimes the biggest drama is things like Hans not wanting a lighthouse to be built on the island.
The intricacies of daily life are what make this novel truly fascinating. It’s no surprise it has been shortlisted for the prize.