In Howard Jacobson’s J, the story takes place in a dystopian Britain. Collective memories have vanished; the past is considered too dangerous and should never be spoken of, nor should it be visited.
Kevern Cohen doesn’t know why his father always drew two fingers across his lips when he said a word starting with a J. It wasn’t then, and isn’t now, the time or place to be asking questions. When the extravagantly beautiful Ailinn Solomons arrives in his village by a sea that laps no other shore, Kevern is instantly drawn to her. Although mistrustful by nature, the two become linked as if they were meant for each other. Together, they form a refuge from the commonplace brutality that is the legacy of a historic catastrophe shrouded in suspicion, denial, and apology, simply referred to as WHAT HAPPENED, IF IT HAPPENED. To Ailinn’s guardian, Esme Nussbaum, Ailinn and Kevern are fragile shoots of hopefulness. As this unusual pair’s actions draw them into ever-increasing danger, Esme is determined to keep them together—whatever the costs.
Although this story is well-written, I have to admit that I’m having a hard time getting into the story altogether. I’m about less than halfway through the novel because it is a difficult read. It could be something that I may have missed. I get the idea behind the story, about a fragile society that’s an uncomfortable topic for its residents, including Kevern and Ailinn’s posing a threat to their world; however, the story seemed to go into too much detail for me. Nevertheless, I’d say that I could give it three stars.