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The Lion of Boaz-Jachin and Jachin-Boaz (1973)

by Russell Hoban

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219553,142 (3.71)17
Recently added byhklmnrtz, dbsovereign, BayardUS, weesam, private library, Kammbia1, rickyrickyricky, link_rae

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Showing 5 of 5
An enthralling tale of a journey into the transformative power of mystery and love. This is [surprisingly] Hoban's first "adult" novel and it defies classification. ( )
  dbsovereign | Jan 26, 2016 |
The Lion of Boaz-Jachin and Jachin-Boaz starts out in the style of a fairy tale or myth, which tends to irk me: real fairy tales and myths are stories worn smooth by a hundred thousand retellings over the course of centuries, which is how they get their primordial feel. Attempts to copy that feeling usually result in an affect that strikes me as cheap and unearned. Luckily, The Lion of Boaz-Jachin and Jachin-Boaz turns into something more interesting before its end.

The book gives us two main tales, one focusing on a father and the other focusing on his son, who both are struggling to answer the question of what they want out of life. The two tales share symbols between them, with lions and wheels abounding in the largely physical journey of the son and the largely mental journey of the father. The tale of the son was fine, but gives us a coming of age story where a young man strikes out into the world on his own and likewise is introduced to sexual experiences along the way. In short, it's a story you've read before. It reminded me heavily of As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning by Laurie Lee, right down to the young man playing a musical instrument for room and board as he travelled, but Lee's story taken from his actual life eclipses this book's fictional version. The father's tale holds up much better, refusing to fall into the standard clichés of a mid-life crisis story even as the father abandons his family and takes a much younger blonde lover. He feels some guilt about his actions (which, in an interesting way, manifest physically) but this isn't a story of a man realizing what he had before and returning to it. There are no platitudes so tired and boring here. Even when the manifested specter of his past appears in the form of a lion which most people cannot see, the book avoids the usual boring practice of relegating the lion to a status of a simple hallucination, instead making the vision capable of physical actions that make the situation much more tense and interesting to both the father and the other characters involved.

This short book even manages to develop some other characters as well in just a few pages, like the abandoned wife who you can tell is going to make the same mistakes all over again, or the fishing boat captain that maligns restaurant owners while clearly wanting to be one himself. Hoban's writing worked in general, but unfortunately his setting descriptions sometimes failed to land. I bet it will completely work for some people, but that wasn't the case with me. This is one of those books that I rate 3 stars but which I think is very interesting. Unfortunately, with a beginning written in an off-putting style, writing that failed to floor me, and only one of the two main story lines being a stand-out I can't categorize this as a very good or great book, but it has its moments and is, overall, still well worth your time. ( )
  BayardUS | Jan 10, 2016 |
Rather baffling. Hoban seems to write each book in a different genre, and here he does symbolic not-quite-magic realism in a form which falls somewhere between Eastern Europe and the Latin America of Marquez or Borges. I couldn't get a grip on it.
MB 26-iii-2011 ( )
  MyopicBookworm | Mar 26, 2011 |
See What I Have Been Reading, July 2010 at From Word to Word
  jeremylukehill | Aug 3, 2010 |
The Lion of Boaz-Jachin and Jachin Boaz by Russell Hoban

The book jacket of my edition (Jonathan Cape 1973) states this is Hoban’s “First adult novel.” Fans of “The Mouse and His Child” may dispute that. I have always called Mouse “A book for children and intelligent adults.” But let’s not split hairs.

Like “Mouse” this book requires intelligent adults. Hoban set the bar very high by naming father and son with mirror names. Although I have read it many times I still must stay alert ( p.147 actually used wrong name!) Each rereading, however, increases my appreciation of its beauty.

Rather than try to give a synopsis I urge adventurous readers to find the book, and follow the trail(s) that lead to London’s embankment where a constable, a young woman, a telephone booth, a father and son AND a lion (?) collide. ( )
1 vote Esta1923 | Jan 19, 2010 |
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Epigraph
Thou huntest me as a fierce lion:
and again thou shewest thyself
marvellous upon me.

     Job  x: 16
Dedication
To Gundel
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There were no lion any more.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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The map-maker lives in a time when lions are extinct. He makes a map for his son to find everything he could ever want, but suddenly deserts his family to look for a lion. His son, pursuing him, finds a great deal more than just his father. The author also wrote "Turtle Diary" and "Pilgerman". 
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