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  • Published: 1 March 2022
  • ISBN: 9781787333802
  • Imprint: Jonathan Cape
  • Format: Hardback
  • Pages: 288
  • RRP: $39.99

Mother's Boy

A Writer's Beginnings



Howard Jacobson's funny, revealing and tender memoir of his path to becoming a writer

'A wonderful memoir, written with great linguistic brio. Candid, shrewd and moving - a classic of its kind.' - William Boyd

'Laugh-out-loud glorious and uproarious of course - but don't let the self-ribbing fool you; this is deep and poignant.' Simon Schama

Howard Jacobson's funny, revealing and tender memoir of his path to becoming a writer
It's my theory that only the unhappy, the uncomfortable, the gauche, the badly put together, aspire to make art. Why would you seek to reshape the world unless you were ill-at-ease in it? And I came out of the womb in every sense the wrong way round.

In Mother's Boy, Booker-Prize winner Howard Jacobson reveals how he became a writer. It is an exploration of belonging and not-belonging, of being an insider and outsider, both English and Jewish.

Jacobson was forty when his first novel was published. In Mother's Boy he traces the life that brought him there. Born to a working-class family in 1940s Manchester, the great-grandson of Lithuanian and Russian immigrants, Jacobson was raised by his mother, grandmother and aunt Joyce. His father was a regimental tailor, as well as an upholsterer, a market-stall holder, a taxi driver, a balloonist, and a magician.

Grappling always with his family's history and his Jewish identity, Jacobson takes us from the growing pains of childhood to studying at Cambridge under F.R. Leavis, and landing in Sydney as a maverick young professor on campus. After his first marriage and the birth of his son, he lived in places as disparate as London, Wolverhampton, Boscastle and Melbourne, and worked many different jobs to make ends meet, from selling handbags on a market stall, to teaching English in schools, universities and sometimes football stadiums, and even helping to run an Australian-inspired restaurant in the middle of Cornwall.

Full of Jacobson's trademark humour and infused with bittersweet memories of his parents, this is the story of a writer's beginnings - as well as the twists and turns that life takes - and of learning to understand who you are before you can become the writer you were meant to be.

  • Published: 1 March 2022
  • ISBN: 9781787333802
  • Imprint: Jonathan Cape
  • Format: Hardback
  • Pages: 288
  • RRP: $39.99

About the author

Howard Jacobson

Howard Jacobson has written sixteen 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; he was also shortlisted for the prize in 2014 for J.

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Praise for Mother's Boy

A wonderful memoir, written with great linguistic brio. Candid, shrewd and moving - a classic of its kind.

William Boyd

Howard Jacobson has always been hilariously brilliant at writing fictional versions of his life. He can, it turns out, also tell the real story with all that brilliance and hilarity, with the added gain for the reader of finding out what - and who - made him that writer.

David Baddiel

I was totally absorbed at every stage. . . It is a joy to read. . . I believe it will become a classic.

Melvyn Bragg

This memoir, at once hilarious and poignant, braids together a brilliant stand-up comedian's depiction of a Jewish child's coming-of age in mid-20th-century England with a subtle, nuanced account of the growth of a novelist's mind. Crafted in a vivid, resourceful English in which Yiddish repeatedly surfaces as the mot juste, Mother's Boy is a thrilling book, full of tenderness, rage, and sharp intelligence.

Stephen Greenblatt

Exquisite elegance... Few Jewish writers, except possibly for Isaac Bashevis Singer or Bernard Malamud, document so well the paradoxes of Jewish life in a Western society.

Steven Berkoff

Laugh-out-loud glorious and uproarious of course - but don't let the self-ribbing fool you; this is deep and poignant.

Simon Schama

Pure delight. Witty, sometimes acid observations jostle with tender reminiscences and enduringly wise insights into what it is to be a Jew, a man, a human being. Its joys help explain why Howard Jacobson is rightly regarded as one of Britain's very greatest writers.

Jonathan Freedland

Mining down to the roots of his creativity, Mother's Boy is very funny, profoundly serious and demonically fluent. If there is a better contemporary account of the cost of becoming a writer, I've yet to read it

Spectator

Howard Jacobson meticulously chronicles his lifetime of failures. But with the rat-a-tat-tat delivery of a great stand-up, he brilliantly transforms calamity into rip-roaring comedy.

Craig Brown, Mail on Sunday

[A] brilliantly funny memoir.

Kathryn Hughes, Sunday Times

[An] enjoyable memoir...[Jacobson] makes a powerful case for a wider and deeper array of Jewish stories.

Moshenska, Observer

Instantly engaging and sublimely intelligent.

Prospect

Moving... at the end of the book in a breathtaking scene, one of the best Jacobson has written.

David Herman, Jewish Chronicle

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