Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, The

Michael Chabon
trade edition paperback vg+ condition


Reviewed: 2016-11-27

In pre-war Prague, Josef and Thomas Kavalier indulge various adventures in magic, music and other boyish mayhem. But, as anti-semitism descends, their world is turned upside and Josef is despatched to America and freedom. However his escape becomes more complicated than anyone could have anticipated. Armed with the determination to save his family from the incursions of the Nazi party, Josef fights his way to Brooklyn and his cousins the Klaymanns.

Samuel Klaymann's first hint of these developments occurs when his mother unceremoniously wakes him one night to make room in the bed for his newly-arrived cousin. The boys soon find a common passion in artistry and comic books. Joe's artistic genius combined with Sam's storytelling and enterpreneurship combine to create a formidable partnership. As their cartoon creation, the Escapist, takes on the might of the Nazis, Joe and Sam fight their own battles in the new comic book industry. Joe strives for visas from an increasingly intransigent fascist party and Sam struggles with his demons of his own.

A terrific tale that spans continents and generations, this is definitely a new favourite of mine. The despair that Joe feels while waiting for his family rarely overwhelms; the comic balance of the boys' misadventures fits perfectly. Sam's self-discovery is beautiful and his mam is a legend. And the supporting characters of Rosa, Deasy, Harkoo and Bacon are especially good additions. 

Highly recommended - Chabon tackles both political history, from a distance, and social history - both with remarkable insight and empathy. Long as it was, I want more!

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