January was a month of art, history, love, adventure, the old world and even a little magic. Looking to mix my reading up I turned to The Book of Jonah by Joshua Max Feldman, a contemporary fiction based in the USA with an Old Testament twist.
The Book of Jonah introduces us to Jonah Jacobstein a corporate lawyer living the high life in Manhattan. Jonah is working every hour God gives to become a partner in one of the largest law firms in New York by doing the dirty work of a large pharmaceutical company. Whilst also juggling between the affections of two beautiful women; one a long-term girlfriend and another who is sexy and fun. Life couldn’t get any better, then Jonah has a chance encounter with a Hasidic Jew who tells him God has other plans for him.
Jonah Jacobstein is young, handsome, ambitious and not likeable at all. He is the author Feldman’s modern equivalent of Jonah from the Old Testament; who was swallowed by a giant fish (whale) when he tried to run away from God’s mission for him. So predictably it takes a lot of trouble and strife before Jonah Jacobstein begins to pay attention. As Jonah begins to change his life it is to become entwined with Judith. A young, attractive and highly ambitious woman who has been hurt and has utterly lost her faith in life. Jonah and Judith are not easy characters to read about but I was interested in the transformations they go through.
The Book of Jonah is the debut novel of Joshua Max Feldman. I don’t read a large amount of contemporary fiction but I was intrigued by the idea of a modern retelling of the well known tale of ‘Jonah and the Whale’ from the Old Testament. I think Feldman has done a clever and imaginative job of transplanting characters, events and places to the modern world. For example Jonah’s journey in the belly of the whale has become a drug fuelled stay on a canal boat in Amsterdam and instead of God sending Jonah to Nineveh he is sent to Las Vegas. This was a slow read for me as half way through I lost my impetus for it because inevitably this is a dark, gritty and sad tale which depressingly highlights many of the negative, cruel and selfish aspects of modern society. After a break though I returned and finished this novel, and I am pleased I persevered.
The Book of the Jonah is a modern and imaginative retelling of an Old Testament story. I recommend to those interested in contemporary fiction and Biblical retellings. Okay read.
Thank you to Henry Holt and Co for providing a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.
Have you read this? Have you read any other Biblical retellings?