The only son of Reuben, a former boxer who works for a gangster, and Esther, an exotic dancer performing as Esty Blossom, Joshua Shapiro has a chip on his shoulder about being Jewish, Canadian, and poor. Obsessed with the Spanish Civil War, the subject of his first book, Joshua feels he has been left out of life’s great adventures, its noble causes, and strives to make up for this lack by becoming rich and famous as a journalist and television personality in England and Canada. More than in most of his fiction, Richler presents a nonlinear narrative as forty-seven-year-old Joshua, hospitalized with multiple fractures, looks back at his life and the choices he and those close to him have made. The novel constantly jumps back and forth in time and place (Montreal, London, Paris, Hollywood, Spain) to suggest the chaotic, peripatetic nature of its protagonist’s life.
As a young man, Joshua falls desperately in love with Pauline Hornby, the well-to-do daughter of a Canadian senator. A few years later in London, he begins an affair with the married Pauline and eventually marries her. Marriage, fatherhood, and a successful career fail to provide the happiness Joshua desires. He never feels worthy of Pauline, always placing obstacles between them, and constantly fears losing her. He is ambivalent about everything in his life, especially his celebrity because he dislikes television and those who shine in the medium.
Joshua also dislikes Jack...
(The entire section is 521 words.)