First great read of 2008 - Malamud

OK, I began reading The Assistant, by Bernard Malamud, a couple of weeks ago, but I finished it just five minutes ago so that makes it my first great read of the year. Had I finished it yesterday it would have took rightful place amongst my favourite few of 07. I had heard Malamud praised in a few quarters but had been a bit slow. The Assistant is one of those rare, understated, poetic and tragic novels that touches on emotions, and experiences I forgot I had. The writing reminded me of Richard Yates. Clean. Spare. Yet full of feeling. It is also a very Jewish novel and Malamud includes the idiosyncracies of the Yiddish/Brooklyn dialect which is wonderfully conveyed. The struggling immigrant experience is one I relate to strongly through my dad and this book shows that the immigrant experience is not just about an actual immigrant but also the assistant of the title, a struggling petty criminal and wanderer who grew up in orphanages and who is totally lost.
I have never been one for wanting to go into too much detail as to what a book is 'about', but words such as conscience, crime, redemption, innocence and love all feature very strongly. If I read anything that has anywhere near the power of this book during 2008 I will be very happy.

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