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Man Booker International Shortlist 2017: Judas by Amos Oz


Next up in the review of shortlist books is Judas by Amos Oz. Both Book Worm and guest reviewer, Tracy, reviewed this book. I personally love Amos Oz but haven’t read this particular book yet (although I own a copy). Read the reviews below and make sure to check out the winner of the Bailey’s prize which will be announced later today.

Judas by Amos Oz
Published: November 2016
Original language: Hebrew (first edition 2014)
Reviewed by: Book Worm and Tracy
Find it/buy it here: Judas

This ARC was provided by Random House UK (via NetGalley) in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis from Goodreads: Jerusalem, 1959. Shmuel Ash, a biblical scholar, is adrift in his young life when he finds work as a caregiver for a brilliant but cantankerous old man named Gershom Wald. There is, however, a third, mysterious presence in his new home. Atalia Abarbanel, the daughter of a deceased Zionist leader, a beautiful woman in her forties, entrances young Shmuel even as she keeps him at a distance. Piece by piece, the old Jerusalem stone house, haunted by tragic history and now home to the three misfits and their intricate relationship, reveals its secrets.

At once an exquisite love story and coming-of-age novel, an allegory for the state of Israel and for the biblical tale from which it draws its title, Judas is Amos Oz’s most powerful novel in decades.

Tracy’s Thoughts and ratings: It was well- written. I found myself engrossed much of the time, but I just couldn’t connect with or like the characters. They just seemed so cold and disjointed from each other. This was probably intentional, as they had all been through various shocks.

I do like the many examples of Judas/traitor, but some of the research details could have been left out. It made me think a lot about how a person’s character determines their actions, and ultimately their life. It was a good book, but not a great one for me.

Writing quality: 4.5/5
Originality: 4/5
Character development: 2.5/4
Plot development: 2/4
Overall enjoyment: 1/2
Total: 14/20

Book Worm’s Thoughts and Ratings: In our normal rating system this would have been a 3 star book. While it is well written,  it is trying to do too many things at once and because of this it doesn’t actually work well as a novel. Other reviewers have complained about the repetitiveness of the narrative and this is a fair complaint. While I enjoyed the description of Shmuel’s style of walking the first time it was given, by the 5th or 6th time it had become boring. Yeah I get it his walk is funny now quit telling me how funny it is.

While Tracy would have left out the research details, I think I would have enjoyed this book more if it was an academic book debating the roles of Jesus and Judas in Judaism and Christianity. I liked the debate about what makes someone a traitor and how history often gives a false impression of what really happened, but I felt that the characters were more of a sideline than a central part of the narrative. This book was torn between being a book of academic research about religion and a political book about the state of modern Israel and the decisions that brought us to where we are now.

Writing quality: 4/5
Originality: 4/5
Character development: 2/4
Plot development: 2/4
Overall enjoyment: 1/2
Total: 13/20

Our combined score: 13.5/20

Ranked list of shortlist books:
1. Fever Dreams (18.5/20)
2. Mirror, Shoulder, Signal (17/20)
3. A Horse Walks into a Bar (15/20)
4. Judas (13.5/20)
5. The Unseen 13/20)

We want to hear from you. Have read this book? What did you think? Should it win the prize?


4 Comments Post a comment
  1. The synopsis made me want to read this, but your reviews immediately put me off. Good authors do a lot of research to create their novel’s world, of course, but I wish more of them would get a grip on showing that research. Research should be woven into the fabric of the narrative, not feel like the author’s waving at you to make sure you know they’ve done their homework. I like BW’s take on it with this novel – it does sound as though Oz had difficulty choosing what kind of book he wanted to write.


    June 8, 2017
    • HI Rosanne,
      We are happy to promote other blogs and link to your reviews however, we won’t typically approve comments that simply just link to your own reviews especially if you never comment or engage in the blog readers on our platform. For example, we’d love for you to be able to comment with some of your thoughts on each book as a general comment to our posts and then maybe link to your reviews for our readers who may be interested in reading more about your thoughts. What do you think of our reviews? Do you agree or disagree with how we rated the book? Tell us a little bit about who you are. Our general policy is that unless we know the blogger and have had interactions with you, we won’t approve comments that are simply links to other blogs because that feels more like self-promotion than active discussion with us and our readers. I’ll keep this comment up here but just wanted to explain why you might not be seeing your other reviews. Wishing you all the best.


      June 21, 2017
  2. Thannk you for sharing this


    June 29, 2022

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