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

July 21, 2010

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon is one of the most remarkable works of fiction I have ever read. Even though this story is about the comic book world, there are very few comic / pop references, and none which are required to enjoy the book. This is a big plus because you don’t have to be a “fanboy” in order to enjoy this book.

  • 639 pages
  • Publisher: Random House
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679450041

Book Review: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael ChabonMy rat­ing for The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay— 5
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The story (which, as a fan of comics, reminds me of Superman creators Joe Schuster and Jerry Siegel) is set in the late 30’s, just as Superman is about to burst onto the world and begin the “Golden Age” of comics.

A Polish Jewish refugee, Josef Kavalier, arrives in New York to live with his cousin, Sammy Klayman. The two cousins hit it off due to their common interest in comics, escapology (which helped Joe escape the Nazis) and their fascination with the world famous Harry Houdini. The two cousins get a job at a novelty products company which is attempting to break into the comic book industry and they make it big with their character “The Escapist“, only to be exploited and get minimal monetary reward.

Joe enlists in the Navy hoping to help his family escape Nazi occupied Europe, only to live behind his pregnant girlfriend. After a self imposed exile, Joe returns only to find his cousin and his former girlfriend married and raising his child. As each one of the characters struggles with their identity, they attempt to reunite as a family as well as get back on top of the comics world.

The book touches on many themes, such as the role Jewish writers and artists played in American pop culture (like it or not comics are American mythology). However, escapism is probably the most important theme, whether it is from Nazi occupied Europe or from one of the characters sexual identity or physical weakness.

As I said before, the book is fantastic. The characters are engaging, three dimensional and familiar. The story is tragic, funny and interesting. Michael Chabon moves the story forward in a good pace, while concentrating on interesting elements instead of the mundane.

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Zohar — Man of la Book
Dis­claimer: I bought this book
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10 Comments

  • Rose City Reader July 21, 2010 at 3:25 pm

    This has been on my TBR shelf forever, but I don't read it. That must change.

    Thanks for joining the Battle of the Prizes, American Version, Challenge! I posted a link to your blog on the list of participants, and a link to this review on the list of reviews. You can see both, here on the main challenge page.

  • Rose City Reader July 21, 2010 at 3:27 pm

    Oh, and a big THANK YOU for including the challenge button on your post!

  • Brenna July 21, 2010 at 3:53 pm

    This has been on my TBR shelf for quite awhile as well. Thanks for the review. It will motivate me to pick up the book soon!

  • Gerbera Daisy Mom July 26, 2010 at 2:44 pm

    I am recently addicted to his WIFE's books, but haven't read any of his. Has he written anything fewer than 500 pages??!! 🙂

  • Man of la Book July 26, 2010 at 2:55 pm

    He has, but the only other book I read is "Gentlemen of the Road" – Review coming 🙂

  • Ash November 6, 2010 at 1:33 am

    I love that you said you don’t have to be a fanboy to enjoy this book- so true! I read quite a few comic books in high school but I still don’t think you need to have any of the knowledge to enjoy this book. Chabon transcends fanaticism.

    • zohar November 6, 2010 at 7:04 am

      LOL, I still read comics but I no longer get the weekly magazines and wait for the graphic novel. Did you know that comics are the only weekly English publication in college level English?

      • Ash November 6, 2010 at 11:56 am

        I had no idea! I also don’t get weekly magazines anymore– I just saw a really interesting panel about comics and wish I could remember what was said about weekly publications versus the multiple issue novels, but I’m drawing a blank. I think the comic book artists said they wanted you to buy the weeklies. It’s just not feasible for me to do so though, and I’d rather have a sturdier copy I can share with my friends.

  • Shivanee January 27, 2011 at 1:52 pm

    How thrilled I am to see that you’ve read and reviewed this! Chabon is one of those writers I’ve always suspected is brilliant, but from whom I have held off on experiencing — I wonder why that could be? I bought a handsome edition of ‘The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay’ years ago, and have yet to crack open its spine. A review like this convinces me that I have to move this to the top of my ‘Must Be Read!’ mountain this year. Have you read any of Chabon’s other works, and if so, how did they compare?
    Regards,
    Shivanee @Novel Niche

    • zohar January 27, 2011 at 3:16 pm

      Thanks for the comment Shivanee, ‘The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay’ is the first Chabon book I read and to be honest, it blew me away (as you can tell). I’ve read one or two other Chabon books (reviews are in que) and even though I enjoyed them I did not think they were as good as this book.

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