The Books of Jacob

Books on Tape. Feb. 2022. tr. from Polish by Jennifer Croft. 35:38 hrs. ISBN 9780593395271. $95. F
Tokarczuk (Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead) elicits understanding, if not sympathy, for the 18th-century professed messiah and convicted heretic Jacob Frank as his story is told through the eyes of his Sabbatean Jew followers and skeptics and persecutors both Jewish and Christian, as well as the all-seeing gaze of his grandmother, Yente. Yente’s perspective spans all eras of this epic novel, guiding listeners through a complex web of characters, many of whom have multiple names or adopt new ones when Frank preaches conversion. Unable to assign unique voices to all, Gilli Messer adjusts dialogue according to age and background, but her energetic pace thwarts casual listening. Supporting narrator Allen Lewis Rickman reads a single character’s epistolary chapters with welcome distinction and authenticity, suggesting that a full-cast recording like the 2020 Polish-language audiobook would have helped keep listeners oriented. Nevertheless, Messer’s bright voice captures much of the author’s and translator’s use of humor to ground major events in the mundanities of lives affected, especially women’s.
VERDICT Demand will be high for Croft’s translation of Nobel Laureate Tokarczuk’s masterpiece, which rewards a close reading in print or a distraction-free listen.
Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing