The Lion Seeker by Kenneth BonertThe Lion Seeker by Kenneth Bonert

The Lion Seeker

byKenneth Bonert

Paperback | February 25, 2014

Pricing and Purchase Info

$18.90 online 
$21.00 list price save 10%
Earn 95 plum® points

Prices and offers may vary in store


Ships within 1-2 weeks

Ships free on orders over $25

Available in stores


A brawny, brilliant debut novel about the epic struggles of an immigrant son in a darkening world.
Johannesburg, South Africa. The Great Depression. In this harsh new country, young Isaac Helger burns with fiery determination— to break out of the inner city, to buy his scarred mother the home she longs for, to find a way to realize her dream of reuniting a family torn apart. But there are terrible, unspoken secrets of the past that will haunt him as he makes his way through a society brutalized by racism, as he loses his heart to an unattainable girl from the city’s wealthiest heights and his every exit route from poverty dead-ends. When the threat of the Second World War insinuates itself with brutal force into Isaac’s reality, he will face the most important choice of his life . . . and will have to learn to live with the consequences.
In this extraordinarily powerful novel, Kenneth Bonert brings alive the world of South African Jewry in all its raw energy and ribald vernacular. Comedic, searing, lyrical and with a snap-perfect ear for dialogue, The Lion Seeker is a profoundly moral exploration of how wider social forces shape us and shatter us, echoing through history with lessons that are no less relevant today than in the crucible of its time.

KENNETH BONERT's short stories have appeared in Grain and the Fiddlehead. His story "Packers and Movers" was shortlisted for the Journey Prize and his novella "Peacekeepers, 1995" appeared in McSweeney's. The Lion Seeker is his first novel. A one-time journalist, his articles have appeared in the Globe and Mail, the National Post and o...
Title:The Lion SeekerFormat:PaperbackDimensions:576 pages, 8.9 × 5.9 × 1.2 inPublished:February 25, 2014Publisher:Knopf CanadaLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0307362140

ISBN - 13:9780307362148

Look for similar items by category:


Rated 5 out of 5 by from Brilliant & Brutal The Lion Seeker vividly illustrates what it was to come of age in a landscape of political unrest and social corruption. The Lion Seeker is Kenneth Bonert’s first novel, and Knopf Canada’s only title in 2013’s “New Faces of Fiction” program. His short stories have appeared in Grain and The Fiddlehead. The South African born writer now calls Toronto home. While working as a journalist his articles appeared in the Globe and Mail, National Post and other publications. Within the first few chapters of The Lion Seeker I was put in mind of Khaled Hosseini’s “The Kite Runner.” In that both stories are (unbelievably) first novels. Both main characters (young boys) are coming of age during times of historic brutality. (The Kite Runner is set in Afghanistan during the fall of the Monarchy to the collapse of the Taliban.) Both stories examine ethnic tensions. Finally, both stories had me hooked immediately. Beyond these comparisons, the stories are stand-alone, exceptional, originals. Bonert delivers a knowledgeable portrait of the many facets of African/Jewish, rich/poor, black/white existence, during the sociopolitical unrest leading up to and during Hitler’s regimented slaughter of hundreds of thousands of innocents. Through lyrical prose, authentic vernacular, and vivid landscapes the reader is delivered to Africa, in all of her brilliance and brutality.
Date published: 2018-03-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Gritty Read Full disclosure: I went to university with the author. We were friendly but not close. Wanting to support a classmate, I was happy to read The Lion Seeker but was completely unprepared with how impressed I would be with this book. It speaks of a time that I know a little of and a place of which I was largely ignorant. The writing was fluid, capturing the disjointedness that real people often speak it. The story spans two continents, the Great Depression, the Second World War and beyond. It covers world events as well as the major and minor dramas in a family with too many secrets and not enough honesty. The reviewer below is welcome to his/her opinion but that review does make me wonder why a work of historical fiction should be taken as a historical document.
Date published: 2015-03-23
Rated 1 out of 5 by from didn't match what was in the book. I bought this book specifically because it was about jews in South Africa during the depression. My father grew up in Doornfontein. I wanted to get an understanding of what it was like in Johannesburg at that time. This book didn't convey any real images of what it was like to live there. The writing was choppy and the dialogue confusing and at times very irritating. There was all sorts of slang and other languages in the mix which made it difficult to follow. The writing didn't really develop the characters and didn't give me any idea of who they really were. I had difficulty finishing the book.
Date published: 2014-05-24
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A great read This novel took a bit of time to get going but at the end it revealed a very sad but interesting story
Date published: 2014-03-09
Rated 3 out of 5 by from The Lion Seeker I liked this book because it was set in a country rich in geography, history, cultures & customs which are mostly unfamiliar to me. The underlying mystery, the fast paced action, and the maturing process of the main character were intriguing.The Lion Seeker was hard to put down at times.
Date published: 2014-02-24
Rated 4 out of 5 by from To be forever an immigrant Bonert keeps you reading, hoping, sickened, and inspired by the fortitude of Isaac and Gitelle.
Date published: 2014-02-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great historical read Long but excellent. The last third I could not put down. Pick it up and you will not be disappointed if you want an inside view on Africa during the time surrounding the war. Very enlightening on the Jewish African population
Date published: 2014-01-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The lion seeker.. Historical novel Interesting book set in South Africa started in the early 1920s and ends in 1961. A Lithuanian Jewish mother and two young kids relocate to South Africa to join her husband, their father.. The mother hopes to make a better life for her family and to help her siblings back home escape the increasing anti Semitic violence. She pins her hopes and dreams on her young son Yitzak ( Issac) to get a good paying job and earn enough to help the family, especially with the outbreak of WW II
Date published: 2014-01-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Lion Seeker For av avid reader, this book will be bought and kept in paper form as it is beyond words....
Date published: 2013-04-18

Editorial Reviews

WINNER 2015 – Jewish Book Council Choice AwardFINALIST 2015 – Jewish Book Council Sami Rohr PrizeWINNER 2014 – Canadian Jewish Book Award in Fiction, a category of the Helen and Stan Vine Canadian Jewish Book AwardsWINNER 2013 – Edward Lewis Wallant AwardWINNER 2013 – National Jewish Book Award for Outstanding Debut FictionFINALIST 2013 – Governor General’s Literary Award for Fiction“The Lion Seeker adds to the unique diversity in Canadian literature. Mazel tov, Kenneth Bonert, you have written a blockbuster of a book.” —Toronto Star  “Bonert’s prose is sharp and masterful, clipping along at a breathless pace while still managing to wow us with imagery, clever turns of phrase and believable dialogue peppered with several languages.” —Zoe Whittall, The Globe and Mail  “Strikingly assured debut. The Lion Seeker is astonishingly mature, admirably incautious. It moves with the sleight-of-hand of the born artist, ramping up for naked tugs at the heart. It would make a terrific film. It’s visually and thematically sweeping, rich with diverse personalities, packed with tender waves and roiling crests of love, loss, hope, hatred.” —National Post“This powerful novel begins with a mystery that propels its characters through their difficult lives in prewar South Africa and haunts their actions until a dramatic and searing climax based on the Holocaust in Lithuania. The Lion Seeker is vivid and illuminating, astonishing in its range and toughness, and simultaneously an expression of love and regret for all that has been lost.” —Antanas Sileika, author of Underground and Woman in Bronze and Director of the Humber School for Writers “A remarkably assured debut, The Lion Seeker is a riveting, lyrical, and profound journey towards the intersection of private lives and public destinies. Kenneth Bonert has all the makings of a major novelist.” —Charles Foran, author of Mordecai: The Life and Times“The Lion Seeker is no-holds-barred, bare-knuckle-fight raw. A historical novel that feels desperately current; a Rosenburg and Juliet love story shorn of all sentiment; a stock-taking of human brutality and its flip side, our capacity to reach beyond our limitations and be better, all rendered in prose so expert, so fine honed that it belies the adjective ‘debut.’ It joins classics like J. M. Coetzee’s Disgrace and Rian Malan’s My Traitor’s Heart in the canon, and renders the South African experience universal. A first-round knock-out for Kenneth Bonert.” —Richard Poplak, author of Ja No Man: Growing Up White in Apartheid-Era South Africa “The Lion Seeker is a powerful and thoroughly engrossing novel, grand in scope, richly imagined, full of dramatic incident, and crafted in a prose that is by turns rough-hewn and lyrical. To read it is to be reminded how great a great novel can be.” —David Bezmozgis, author of The Free World and Natasha: And Other Stories