Richler's novels (The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, St. Urbain's Horseman) are exuberant, stew-like affairs, and this one is no exception, with especial tang. An alcoholic Montreal writer named Moses Berger is writing a book about the Gursky (read Bronfman) family, founders and owners of the McTavish (read Seagram) Distillers. Actually, the book tries to get a fix on the most shadowy of the original three Gursky brothers--Solomon, who seems to have been both the imp and the hero (buying Jews out of pre-Holocaust Europe) of the family. And what a family! Clever, greedy, funny, and in the oddest way very shtetl-like, totally interwoven into the Montreal Jewish community with its muttering provincialism and emotional generosity. Berger traces the family back to the patriarch, Ephraim, a crook thrown out of England and landing in the Arctic, where he assumed a Messianic position among the local Eskimos, who became crypto-Jews. This is funny stuff, but funnier still is the acid portraiture of the social waves that the latter-day Gurskys give off. No one can do a Jewish social function better than Richler, and there's a testimonial dinner here that's priceless--as well as an affectionate but Hogarth-like look at amateur synagogue literary pretensions (such as one wife's book, published after the Gurskys buy into a publishing company, called Hugs, Pain, and Chocolate Chip Cookies). If Richler's cockeyed Canadian historicizing seems somewhat forced at times, less than fully melded-in, the comedy remains constant and effortless. A lot of fun.