Barbara Trapido, “Brother of the More Famous Jack”

What if I Capture the Castle were adapted and updated, set in the 1970s and ’80s? What if the narrator, Katherine Browne, were another bookish and naive heroine whose horizons were broadened by a confusing tribe that included several fascinating men… but in this new book, lots of sex occurred, too? What if the author, Barbara Trapido, had a brilliant eye for the telling detail? For instance, I laughed out loud on the subway at this sentence on page 2: “He had hair to match his eyebrows sprouting, intimidatingly, like sofa stuffing from the neck of his open shirt.”

"The God of Thunder with a migraine," 100 years earlier? Courtesy Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums

“The God of Thunder with a migraine,” 100 years earlier? Courtesy Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums

Well, obviously, you’d be reading Brother of the More Famous Jack. The title comes from a joke about William Butler Yeats, the kind of joke that sends the Goldman clan into fits of giggles. What’s not to like about a family that has in-jokes about Yeats? Certainly Katherine is smitten from the very start. Jacob, the paterfamilias, is a hairy, brilliant, warm-hearted German-Jewish refugee who ended up married to the beautiful aristocratic Jane. Jake is Katherine’s university tutor but she is brought to stay with the Goldmans by the divine, older, and bisexual John Millet. There are two Goldman sons, Roger and Jonathan, and since they are closer to Katherine in age, we shouldn’t be surprised that she ends up falling in love.

OK, this isn’t earth-shaking stuff and it’s not especially new, either, but I sure did enjoy my time spent with these clever, literate folk. Katherine, our narrator, is capable of cleverness like this: “Jonathan in a black pullover, I considered, would look like the God of Thunder with a migraine.”

Appealing? Then get hold of the book. It won’t be easy — mine came from the UK. Barbara Trapido‘s books seem to be out of print in the US and not available as ebooks. Oh, the injustice of the contemporary publishing world!

But to cheer us up, here’s a further bulletin on Jacob Goldman’s hair. Katherine goes to the beach with the family —

On the pebbles where we stripped to our bathers, I discovered that Jacob’s chest hair continued black and copious over his shoulders and all the way down his back. It grew in tight curls along the breast bone and straightened out over the shoulders where it lay in smooth two-inch lengths. I stared at him surreptitiously, like a kid sizing up a hunchback.

‘Say,’ Jane said, who had noticed my gaping, ‘you really are most immoderately and unnaturally hirsute, aren’t you, my husband?'”

Do people talk like that in real life? I don’t care, as long as I can read about them doing so in novels like this one.

About carolwallace

I spend most of my time writing and reading. Most recent publications: the reissue of "To Marry an English Lord,"one of the inspirations for "Downton Abbey," and the historical novel "Leaving Van Gogh." I am too cranky to belong to a book group but I love the book-blogging community.
This entry was posted in anglophilia, contemporary fiction, funny and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Barbara Trapido, “Brother of the More Famous Jack”

  1. Barbara says:

    Because this author is relatively unknown here in the US, I was surprised, yet delighted, to see your review. I got my used copy at Powell’s bookstore in Portland, OR after reading a glowing review by Cynthia Crossen in the Wall St. Journal a few years back. Her column was on “underappreciated authors.” Anyway, a wonderfully succinct review of this book is printed in my copy: “More Ms. Trapido, rapido.” I never put two and two together to connect I Capture…with this book and I think you are absolutely right! Thanks for another interesting post.

  2. carolwallace says:

    Oooh, I love that: Trapido, rapido. Have you read any of her other books, Barbara? I loved “Brother” so much that I’m almost afraid to branch out. Besides which, there is the important matter of deferred gratification…

  3. Barbara says:

    No, I have not read any others….yet. And I am completely of the same mind when it comes to “deferred gratification!”

  4. jenspen says:

    I discovered Barbara Trapido a couple of years ago via a review of “Sex and Stravinsky” in The Australian newspapers. So far have read four of her published novels and I gave each five stars on Goodreads.
    I feel a companionship with many of her off-beat characters and love the blackly comic but glittering style, the humanity and the off-hand references to high culture.

  5. carolwallace says:

    Jen, I think you hit the nail on the head, but I have to get over my envy of your having been able to get hold of 4 of Trapido’s novels. Will check your Goodreads reviews pronto!

  6. Barbara Baker [was: jenspen] says:

    Carol, you might have some luck with

    BTW, I come clean on Goodreads and use my own name, Barbara Baker. But I wrote only one brief review of a Trapido novel as I have read only one since I joined up.

  7. Pingback: Follow my book blog, “Book Group of One” | | Carol Wallace BooksCarol Wallace Books

  8. Sue Dickman says:

    Unfortunately, all of Trapido’s books haven’t been published in the U.S. I think Brother, Temples of Delight, The Travelling Hornplayer and Noah’s Ark are the only ones. It doesn’t really make sense–Juggling is a sequel to Temples of Delight, and one was published here and one wasn’t. I’ve found Awesome Books to be a good source for not-expensive British novels. (That’s where I got my copy of Sex and Stravinsky.) I adore Trapido’s work and wish it were more widely known here. I’d really recommend her four novels with overlapping characters, though I also loved Noah’s Ark.

    • carolwallace says:

      Thank you for sorting this out, Sue: I definitely want to read more Trapido but I’ve been confused by the listings on Amazon. I do agree with you about Awesome Books, though, I’ve found them very reasonable and quick.

  9. Pingback: Barbara Trapido, “Temples of Delight” | Book Group of One

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