Solomon Gursky Was Here – Mordecai Richler

Review From User :

this was a re-read for me... but i last read it when it was published (1989) and have a crap memory. so all i retained was the barest of strings, and the sense of just loving this story.

i have to say that i get so much enjoyment out of reading richler (and, as with carol shields, i get bummed fairly frequently over the fact they are no longer here to share new work with us). if the word 'romp' were ever well used in reviewing a book, it would be for this novel. it's a total romp. (can't believe i'm using that word!) it's epic and grand, fun and sharp, and for all its literariness, there is also an interesting mystery.

in her review for the NY Times, Francine Prose says this of the book: "In this, his ninth and most complex novel, Mr. Richler, a Canadian, is after something ambitious and risky, something slightly Dickensian, magical realist: "Two Hundred Years of Jewish-Canadian Solitude." Richler fans will find the scenes one expects in his work -funny, biting, snide-sympathetic takes on Montreal Jewish life - incorporated into a fanciful superstructure of history, geography, myth... Regardless of what its author may actually have experienced, "Solomon Gursky Was Here" reads as if it were great fun to write. Dense, intricately plotted, it takes exuberant, nose-thumbing joy in traditional storytelling with all its nervy cliffhangers and narrative hooks, its windfall legacies, stolen portraits, murders and revenges, its clues that drop on the story line with a satisfying thud." and i think the cool thing prose hit on in her review was the aspect of fun -- as i was reading i kept hoping richer had as much fun writing this as i was having reading it. there seems to be a whole lot of mischievous joy seeping from the pages, and that was a great experience!

(here's the link to prose's review, if you are interested, written 08 april 1990: )

Category: Historical Fiction, Literature

Moses Berger, son of the failed poet L.B. Berger, is in the grip of an obsession. The Gursky family – with its colourful bootlegging history, its bizarre connections with the North and the Inuit, and its wildly eccentric relations – both fascinates and infuriates him.

His quest to unravel their story leads to the enigmatic Ephraim Gursky: document forger in Victorian England, sole survivor of the ill-fated Franklin expedition and charismatic religious leader of the Arctic. Of Ephraim’s three grandsons, Bernard has fought, wheeled and cheated his way to the head of a liquor empire. His brother Morrie has reluctantly followed along. But how does Ephraim’s protege, Solomon, fit in? Elusive, mysterious and powerful, Solomon Gursky hovers in the background, always out of Moses’s grasp, but present – like an omen.


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