> Skip to content
About the book
  • Published: 4 July 2019
  • ISBN: 9781787331433
  • Imprint: Jonathan Cape
  • Format: Hardback
  • Pages: 288
  • RRP: $39.99

Live a Little

A wickedly observed novel about falling in love at the end of your life, by the Man Booker Prize-winning author of The Finkler Question

A wickedly observed novel about falling in love at the end of your life, by the Man Booker Prize-winning author of The Finkler Question.

At the age of ninety-something, Beryl Dusinbery is forgetting everything – including her own children. She spends her days stitching morbid samplers and tormenting her two long-suffering carers, Nastya and Euphoria, with tangled stories of her husbands and love affairs.

Shimi Carmelli can do up his own buttons, walks without the aid of a frame and speaks without spitting. Among the widows of North London, he’s whispered about as the last of the eligible bachelors. Unlike Beryl, he forgets nothing – especially not the shame of a childhood incident that has hung over him like an oppressive cloud ever since.

There’s very little life remaining for either of them, but perhaps just enough to heal some of the hurt inflicted along the way, and find new meaning in what’s left. Told with Jacobson’s trademark wit and style, Live a Little is in equal parts funny, irreverent and tender – a novel to make you consider all the paths not taken, and whether you could still change course.

  • Pub date: 4 July 2019
  • ISBN: 9781787331433
  • Imprint: Jonathan Cape
  • Format: Hardback
  • Pages: 288
  • RRP: $39.99

About the Author

Howard Jacobson

Howard Jacobson has written fifteen novels and five works of non-fiction. He won the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Award in 2000 for The Mighty Walzer and then again in 2013 for Zoo Time. In 2010 he won the Man Booker Prize for The Finkler Question and was also shortlisted for the prize in 2014 for his most recent novel, J.

Also by Howard Jacobson

See all

Praise for Live a Little

“A joyous new novel… A life-affirming tale of late-flowering love…We should all be grateful Howard Jacobson is getting older. He has clearly given thought to the indignities of old age… if we manage to live a little longer, we might have the privilege of enjoying more novels such as this one.”

Alexander Nurnberg, Sunday Times

“Fast and clever… As the narrative develops, the plot twists more and more…and the past is harder to shake off… The novel’s brilliant cover tells it all: hearts and skulls, love and death.”

David Herman, Jewish Chronicle

“Let’s pause to consider [Howard Jacobson’s] comic elegance and precision… Just look at the way he makes the English language dance for us… the characters, as they converse, striking sparks off one another.”

Nicholas Lezard, Spectator

“Howard Jacobson is a rather rare bird among contemporary novelists, for he devotes himself to…the great cause of cheering us all up… The novel is carried along on waves of conversations and a zest for life… what a relief to come on a novel which invites you to smile and even laugh.”

Allan Massie, Scotsman

“Brilliantly observed… No other novelist writing in Britain could dramatise this nonagenarian love story with greater verve and tenderness, while never forgetting that this is a resplendently comedic form.”

Tim Adams, Observer

“Live a Little is a meander of a novel that nonetheless feels urgent… for all of its moments of bleakness, and the occasional flicker of genuine terror, it’s rarely less than bitterly funny in its determination to face up to the obliteration that awaits us all.”

Alex Clark, Guardian

“A tender story of unlikely love… Wise, witty, and deftly crafted.”

Kirkus Reviews

“A thoroughly enjoyable read. For a literature snob and a language obsessive…there is a lot to feast on…for someone looking for an emotionally honest storyline, the book also delivers. Live a Little is about growing old, but it’s also about gender, race, love and politics, penned in a playful, genuine, sometimes borderline offensive way… the genius…is that it manages to indulge in so much wordplay and biting political commentary.”

Holly Baxter, Independent

“Witty and razor sharp… Almost forty years after the publication of his first novel, Jacobson shows that he has lost none of his verve, insight or ability to write dark comedy.”

Ian Critchley, Literary Review

“A master of the slightly dark comedy… Jacobson brings this little pocket of North London to life superbly, and his two ageing protagonists are wonderful creations, depicted with wit and compassion.”


“Tender and funny.”


“As vigorous and darkly mirthful as it is tender… [Live a Little has] unparalleled linguistic verve. Vintage Jacobson.”

Hephzibah Anderson, Mail on Sunday

“Jacobson's familiar wit and whimsy combine with verve and tenderness in this narrative of nonagenarian love found along Finchley Road… witty banter and enjoyment of conversation is at the very heart of the novel.”

Jewish News

“A surprisingly tender love story… The book is alive. It pulses with warmth and intelligence, and, unusually for a novel about old age, it has a lot of style.”

Johanna Thomas-Corr, The Times

“A tender and insightful portrait of unlikely love blossoming in old age.”


“We can forgive Mr Jacobson anything for the sake of his wit and wisdom… Readers would be ungrateful not to allow themselves an occasional smile or chortle.”

Charles Keen, Oldie, *Novel of the Month*

“A joyful excess of invention… Here love is a grave matter, but then skulls are famous for their grins.”

Suzi Feay, Tablet

“This is a soft-hearted novel, warm and optimistic. It reads as if Jacobson is cheering himself up with a bit of wish-fulfilment… [with] nimble, chewy sentences…there is writing to relish on every page.”

Jake Kerridge, Daily Telegraph

“A darkly funny geriatric love story… Jacobson is nearing eighty, and Live a Little is one of those late-life novels full of such wisdom and insight that it makes you wonder why anyone ever bothers reading – or watching – the young at all.”

Shalom Auslander, Times Literary Supplement

“With effortless precision… [Jacobson’s] exceedingly funny and discursive prose style often belies more serious observations on life… There are opportunities for humour, redemption and hope regardless of how close the end is.”

Carl Wilkinson, Financial Times

“You will be hard pushed to find a more enjoyable novel to get stuck into… Thanks to its warmth, humanity and humour, Live a Little feels like the ideal book for these autumnal months.”

Will Gore, Spectator

“Jacobson has a wonderful ear for language…he is compassionate, funny and occasionally very profound.”

Richard Jaffa, Birmingham Jewish Recorder

Related titles