Sunday, 14 October 2007

Review: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon

I was really surprised when this booked ended, as there's a couple of pages of author's notes at the back and so I was expecting a couple more pages of denouement, but there wasn't.

It just stopped.

By this, I mean things are not neatly tied up at the end - we get to a certain point and that's it. There's nothing wrong with this technique, per se, but I did feel that the whole final section of the story is a bit aimless. The drive of the first sections has gone, and perhaps this reflects that Kavalier and Clay have lost their youthful drive as well.

Still there's lots of great things about this story (even if it does peter out at the end). Prague! A city that I have visited and so those early sections when Joe is still in the city, before getting to New York, held special resonance for me. Joe's battle against his guilt at him having escaped Prague, whilst the rest of his family suffer in Terezin was also very moving. Comics! (which is just as well, given they're a huge part of the story :-). I've never really read comics, but I do draw so the descriptions of Joe's art was particularly interesting. I also loved the descriptions of subtext in the comics as well - firstly as a means for fighting Hitler in WW2 and then, to a lesser extent, dealing with issues of sexuality (I'd say more but it might ruin the story. Even saying this is probably too much!). FINALLY, I really love books that deal in alternate histories. I know technically all stories are alternate histories cos, you know, it never happened. However, by alternate history here I mean those stories that are so wide reaching that real events (WW2, the history of comic books) are absorbed and changed seamlessly so you don't know which bits are real and which bits aren't. 'Kavalier and Clay' does this exceptionally well (complete with footnotes), particularly for the comics (and I'd love to know which bits are true and which are not).

In saying all this I haven't even mentioned the strands of the story involved with magic, Houdini, and the rather unexpected - but perfectly natural at the time - section set in Antarctica. I'm also still wondering about the significance of what happens to the Golem in the end (i have theories). In summary, a fat book but an easy read. I'd definitely seek out other works by Michael Chabon based on this one.

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