Live a Little: A Novel
From the Man Booker Prize-winning author of The Finkler Question and J, and one of “our funniest writers alive” (Allison Pearson): a wickedly observed novel of old age and new love.
At the age of ninety-something, Beryl Dusinbery is forgetting everything—including her own children. Her tongue, meanwhile, remains as sharp as ever. She spends her days stitching macabre messages into her needlework and tormenting her two long-suffering carers with tangled stories of her love affairs.
Shimi Carmelli can do up his own buttons, walk without the aid of a frame, and speak without spitting. Among the widows of North London, he’s whispered about as the last of the eligible bachelors. Unlike Beryl, he forgets nothing—especially not the shame of a childhood incident that has hung over him ever since.
There’s very little life remaining for either of them, but perhaps just enough to heal some of the hurt inflicted along the way and find new meaning in what’s left. Could this be their chance to live a little?
Told with Jacobson’s trademark wit and style, Live a Little is equal parts funny, irreverent, and tender—a novel to make you consider all the paths not taken, and whether you could still change course.
Advance praise for Live a Little
“One of the great comic geniuses of our time.”—Lit Hub
“A tender story of unlikely love . . . Jacobson treats with compassion the dilemma of old age. . . . Wise, witty, and deftly crafted.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“For all of its moments of bleakness, and the occasional flicker of genuine terror, it’s rarely less than bitterly funny in its determination to face up to the obliteration that awaits us all.”—The Guardian
“What a relief to come on a novel which invites you to smile and even laugh.”—The Scotsman
“The novel’s brilliant cover tells it all: hearts and skulls, love and death.”—The Jewish Chronicle
“A thoroughly enjoyable read. For a literature snob and a language obsessive . . . there is a lot to feast on . . . for someone looking for an emotionally honest storyline, the book also delivers. Live a Little is about growing old, but it’s also about gender, race, love and politics.”—Independent
“Tender and funny.”—Grazia
Praise for Live a Little: A Novel
“At its heart is an affectionate, life-affirming love story, and the emotion it leaves you with is joy . . . a triumph. The characterisation of the leads is superb: Shimi the tortured antihero might have been written by Saul Bellow, and Beryl is an extraordinarily rich and sympathetic figure. . . . Jacobson’s prose is nimble and elegant. The message this novel contains is a simple, affecting one, about the capacity to determine one’s future, no matter how late. . . . To live a little, it means to say, is no small thing. And it’s persuasive—after all, if we manage to live a little longer, we might have the privilege of enjoying more novels such as this one.”—Sunday Times
“A darkly funny geriatric love story . . . Live a Little is one of those late-life novels full of such wisdom and insight that it makes you wonder why anyone even bothers reading—or watching—the young at all.”—Shalom Auslander, Times Literary Supplement
“Delightful and enlightening . . . A charming romp and wise meditation on timeless love.”—Booklist
“A deliciously entertaining, rollicking dark comedy about nonagenarians searching for meaning while confronting their deepest fears. Jacobson’s appealing tale will delight readers.”—Publishers Weekly