Review: A Horse Walks Into A Bar, by David Grossman

A Horse Walks Into A Bar Synopsis: The setting is a comedy club in a small Israeli town. An audience that has come expecting an evening of amusement instead sees a comedian coming apart on stage, an act of disintegration, a man crumbling, as a matter of choice, before their eyes. They could get up and leave, or boo and whistle and drive him from the stage, if they were not so drawn to glimpse his personal hell. Dovale Gee, a veteran stand-up comic – charming, erratic, repellent – exposes a wound he has been living with for years – a fateful and gruesome choice he had to make between the two people who were dearest to him.

Title: A Horse Walks Into A Bar
Author: David Grossman
Publisher: Jonathan Cape
Pub Date: 16th August 2014
Pages: 198
ISBN: 9781910702932


“What do people see in me on the first impression? … Is there any imprint left from the love I knew? A rebirth mark?”

I received an ARC copy in exchange for an honest review.

It’s taken me a while to get around to the 2017 Man Booker International Prize nominees. So long, in fact, that the winner was selected and I still hadn’t read any of them… whoops!

This was the first of my eBook TBR, simply because it was on the top of the (digital) pile, I had no idea I was reading the winner of the awards until I came to review it.

And, though I hate to say it, I’m not quite sure how I feel about the book. It’s undoubtedly clever and well written – it did win, after all – but did I enjoy reading it? Not so much.

The premise was incredibly gripping: how would it feel to see a person unravel? To see the layers peel off one by one? What would remain at the end? Will it look at all like the person we started with?

The rambling style of narrative, punctuated by unfunny jokes, made for a difficult and tiring read to begin with. Despite being a small book, I had to have a break half way through… for two months! I just couldn’t connect enough to the story to keep going. Like many of our protagonist’s spectators, I considered abandoning the battle, giving up despite my intrigue and moving on to something different.

Still, I pressed on and, though the rambling didn’t stop, it was easier to get on with the more I read. What began as uncomfortable became harrowing and somewhat pitiful. The remaining audience (and I) were under the same trance; we started disgusted, then intrigued and, by the end, we felt pity for the poor creature on stage.

I finished feeling satisfied at having made it to the end. Some books aren’t worth the effort you put into them, but I appreciated this more and more as I look back over it. It does, however, seem wrong to give a book more than 3 stars when it was so hard to get through.

A Horse Walks Into A Bar will not be for everyone but I do think perseverance and patience pays off in the end. It is a small book so it won’t take too much of your time to read.

Give it a go and see where it takes you!

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