Monday, 23 June 2014

'Let's get rich and build a house on a mountain making everybody look like ants...'

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

Recently in my local library I picked up a book I might not usually have chosen, because I am not into the genre or industry it purports to be about. But I read Michael Chabon's Wonderboys for my Creative Writing class, and whilst it wasn't my favourite read ever, it was funny and entertaining, and I love the intriguing way Chabon writes. And the blurb sounded good, the cover was interesting, and it won Chabon the Pulitzer, so I picked it up. (Spoiler alert)

Overall, I very much enjoyed this book. It was funny, sad and epic. It felt like you were going on a long journey of discovery with the characters, through their highs and the lows; the reader was very much emotionally invested in the novel. There was plenty of emotion in the book, despite the way the two main characters Joe and Sammy hide; I felt my heart breaking when Sammy discovered and then rejected his homosexuality, and when Joe learnt of the death of his father and then subsequently his brother upon a ship which Joe had procured him passage on, which led to Joe disappearing and going completely off the rails. 

I loved the physicality of the book; the descriptions of physical appearances and movements were spot on, as were the explanations of the process of creating or drawing a comic book. The author seemed to know a lot about what he wanted to say. It was also clear Chabon had researched his time period and history extremely well; each place we moved to and each story he told was very clear in my mind, extremely well created, nothing jarred and all linked to the comic book genre. 

I ate this book up, it was so well written, and Chabon used so many turns of phrase that both shocked and pleased me. It was a great read. 

There were only two things I didn't like about this book. 
1) In the first section of the novel I didn't really like the character of Sammy; he was endearing and spunky but overall a little too annoying, and the sections detailing Joe's life were much more interesting. I understand the way the book was structured Sammy was a typical sidekick, the moral backbone with the less exciting life. However sometimes I wanted to skip the chapters in which he was the point of view character, which I don't like. Eventually I did warm to him. 
2) The ending, with the time jump. I found myself struggling to get through the final section of the novel. I was interested at first, what with Joe being stuck in the freezing conditions of the North Pole. However this soon wore thin, as did the introduction of Joe and Rosa's son Tommy; this section just seemed too boring and laborious compared to the rest of the novel, despite mock suicide attempts and flying missions, and I can't 100% pinpoint what changed. Maybe the book was just too long for me, and I lost interest. But I suspect it was because this section seemed so far removed from the rest of the book that I was kind of flabbergasted. 

I would definitely encourage anyone to read this book, not just because it won Chabon the Pulitzer Prize, but because it is an epic read that is enjoyable with an emotional tug, much like the comics it is based on. 

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