The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
Published 2000 by Picador USA
I didn’t know very much about The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay when I added it to my 2015 TBR Challenge List, other than it had something to do with comic books. The novel is divided into 6 parts, each one adding a layer of richness to the story of two Jewish cousins, and the rise and fall of their comics empire.
At the outset, teenage Joseph Kavalier is living in pre-WWII Prague, with his family’s hopes pinned on sending him to start a new life with relatives in New York. The first of the many layers of storytelling is Joe’s escape, involving his magic teacher and the Golem of Prague. At this point, I was all-in for wherever Chabon was going to take the story. (Thanks in part to The Golem and the Jinni for kicking off my fascination with golems.) Joe makes it to New York, and meets his cousin Sammy, who suffered in childhood from polio and an absentee father. Sammy’s dreams coupled with Joe’s artistic talent lead to great things – as well as terrible things – for the cousins.
Scrolling through the Goodreads reviews for this Pulitzer Prize winning novel, I see comments that are all across the board. Not every book is for everyone, but here’s my two cents: I’m not into comics in general, and there is a definite shortage of female characters with agency in this book, but neither of these things diminished my enjoyment of getting caught up in Joe and Sammy and their successes and heartbreaks.
Nor did Chabon’s immense vocabulary – I was happy to be reading this book on my Kindle, where I was able to look-up a words at least once a chapter. In fact, I wish I had made a list of words as I went, like I found from this reader. I’d be interested in the other 158 words that made his list.
Have you read this one, or any other Michael Chabon books?
Rosa shook her head. It seemed to be her destiny to live among men whose solutions were invariably more complicated or extreme than the problems they were intended to solve.