My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Yes, it took me a whole four months to read this book, which may be some sort of record for me!
Starting ‘Jerusalem,’ I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’m familiar with Moore’s graphic work, but excellent graphic novels do not necessarily translate into excellent thousand-plus-page works of prose. I was quite pleased to discover, then, that Moore is truly an adept and accomplished writer, with a huge breadth and depth of styles.
In some quarters, ‘Jerusalem’ is being hailed as Moore’s masterwork. It’s an exploration of both the present and past (not to mention the possible future) of his hometown of Northampton, England. Moore posits an afterlife where dimensions are different, and the dead can travel through time just as we can travel fro one physical place to another. This gives him a huge scope to work with, as his narratives career wildly from small and seemingly-inconsequential details to the most world-shaking and momentous of events. If one could say there’s a main character here, it may me that of a small boy who, choking, finds himself in this afterlife. Hooking up with some other ‘kids,’ the “Dead Dead Gang,” they gallivant around on a wild tour. But that’s hardly the only aspect of the book. It’s incredibly ambitious, and is clearly the work of many years.
It’s also clearly nearly wholly unedited. White it is, as a said, an arguably masterful work of prose, I’d really hesitate to call it a novel. Although the various parts of the books are united by theme, and there are many characters that we keep looping back to, there really are quite a few wholly separate works here, that feel sort of jammed-together. I felt like many of them were possibly not even written ‘for’ this book, but that at some point everything in the pantry got thrown into the pot and then it was all called stew.
Some people are certainly going to love this. Just as certainly, some people are going to give up. It’s long, and although the bulk of it is eminently readable, there are parts that are challenging. I admit that I skimmed through large parts of the segment from the perspective of a woman in an insane asylum, where every phrase has a double meaning, and more words than not are newly-minted. At first, I found that section brilliant and clever – but after 30 pages of it, my appreciation began to wane. (I read every word of all of the rest of it, though!)
The book as a whole is definitely a must for anyone from Northampton! I am not, but I still found the historical aspects fascinating and illuminating.
Many thanks to the publisher, Liveright, who gave me one of the very first copies of this book in existence! It’s much appreciated. As always, my opinions are solely my own.