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The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay Paperback – Unabridged, August 25, 2000
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"It's absolutely gosh-wow, super-colossal—smart, funny, and a continual pleasure to read."—Washington Post Book World
"Towering, swash-buckling thrill of a book . . . the themes are masterfully explored, leaving the book's sense of humor intact and characters so highly developed they could walk off the page."—Newsweek
"Well researched and deeply felt, this rich, expansive and hugely satisfying novel will delight a wide range of readers."—Publishers Weekly (starred + boxed)
"Elegant, lyrical writing meets gentle comedy."—San Francisco Chronicle
"Product of a sparkling intelligence, undeniable talent and consummate skill."—Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel
"A lyrical [novel] that's exquisitely patterned...composed with detailed scenes, and spotted with some rapturous passages . . . A-."—Entertainment Weekly
"A page turner in the most expansive sense of the word: its gripping plot pushes readers forward...Chabon is a reader's writer; with sentences so cozy they'll wrap you up and kiss you goodnight."—Chicago Tribune
"This is a gladhearted novel, rich in story and character and invention, and a great escape."—Orlando Sentinel
"Starts out as one of the most pleasurable novels of the past few years. It ends as one of the most moving."—Atlanta Journal-Constitution
About the Author
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The tale of Sammy Clay and his cousin, Josef Kavalier, who has just managed to escape Nazi-occupied Prague, is one of boot-strapping success, but also one of tragedy, repression, lost love, and broken hearts. It is, however, in the end, about redemption, being true to one's self, and second chances.
Chabon writes with his usual inimitable style, creating a unique vision of mid-century New York City, populated with fantastic characters almost as big as the larger-than-life four-color heroes and heroines they create. We see Sammy's greatest dreams realized, his hopes for true love crushed, the precarious balance he finds in later years, and finally, his one last attempt at self-reinvention in a life characterized by little else. We watch Joe escape the clutches of true evil, but agonize when he loses nearly everything, until he slowly reconstructs himself as the man he has always wanted to be. And we see the two cousins, lives intertwined inexorably, support each other, help each other, and ultimately, act as the source of the other's salvation.
There are few writers of Chabon's talent and skill working today, and "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay" is one of his best.
Tragedy strikes, and Joe runs away. For 11 years, Sammy and Joe's girl - Rosa - search for him to no avail. It isn't until Rosa's son, Thomas, starts to disappear into New York City, skipping school, to visit a mysterious man at a local magic shop. Soon Joe is back in their lives and everything changes for he and Sammy.
This book was.....okay. First of all - it was way too long. Very wordy. I found myself skimming sometimes just because there wasn't a lot of dialogue and too much explanation. It is a writing style - I get it - it just isn't for me. Second of all - I did not like Joe. His character was frustrating and extreme. There was a fairly good size chunk of this book during the part that Joe is absent that I felt could have been eliminated all together. Or at least shortened. It completely derailed the story, and didn't fit. The beginning, though, and the ending, when Sammy and Joe were together - was entertaining. Sammy is a witty character and had some great lines. He kept the story afloat and moving forward, unlike Joe's character.
This book is definitely for folks who love comic books. They talk quite a bit about the comic book greats throughout this book and mix true history into the story of these fictional writers. My husband - who is a total nerd for these types of stories - is going to read it next so I will be anxious to hear his take on it.
It was so beautiful and adventurous and human and sad and happy and wondrous that, over the course of a month, it lifted me out of the darkness. I rationed it to one chapter a day, which I read on the subway on my way to the office. I looked so forward to it. It's one of those books I found myself thinking about when I wasn't reading it, counting the hours until my special half hour on the subway.
I feel like the subject matter mentioned out of context might turn some people off (mostly women): it centralizes around the two jewish boys who created the comic book "The Escapist" (a metaphor for the "Superman" comic) in bustling New York City during and after World War II, a time when America needed a hero. I promise you, though, the characters, the tone, the locations and the deeply human undertones transcend the book's logline. It's really about love, religion, overcoming deep adversity (including nazis, heartbreak and profound loss), loyalty, friendship, death-defying escape acts and edge-of-your-seat excitement and adventure. The word "wondrous" really does capture the feeling the book left me with - a sense of childlike wonder and heart rending emotion simultaneously. It captures the excitement of the time so well that it made me feel I was part of something larger, just by reading it.
I hope you'll treat yourself to this (pulitzer winning) epic of human proportions. Regardless of your sex, religion, race or creed, this book has something amazing to give you. It has stuck with me for over ten years and I can't wait to read it again.
Top international reviews
Josef Kavalier escapes from Czechoslovakia at the start of WWII and arrives at the house of his aunt and cousin Ethel and Sam Clayman in New York with revenge against the Nazis in his heart and extraordinary talent in his fingertips. The novel traces the cousins' lives through their growing friendship and their artistic partnership in the era of comic books during the 1940s and 50s. Chabon cleverly switches between chapters that explore the relationship between the two cousins and those that tell the story from one or the other's point of view in immersive and wonderful detail - I thought that this created a really rich and layered story with believably flawed characters. Chabon maintains the momentum throughout as well and despite this being a long read (600+ pages of close type), I felt utterly compelled to turn page after page after page. A great literary adventure.
The novel is highly episodic but with recurring themes notably magic and escapist artistry. It's highly inventive and always keeps you guessing - and full of clever things. If I didn't ultimately warm to it, that's because I think I found the behaviours and decision taking of the central characters very hard to fathom. Perhaps we are not meant to understand Jisef but just go along for the ride...
Having read it over a decade ago, I did not recall all the plot points, so it was very enjoyable throughout. You can read it as a ripping yarn, an analogy for the plight of Jews during and after the war, and not worry too much about how deep it is. For me. this is Chabon's second best book, behind the recent Telegraph Avenue - which is better written, and just as entertaining.
Chabon's three early books have a homosexual character and storyline, and the one is K&C is central to the plot. I am not sure why he does this, but I am glad he doesn't do it anymore. It does not detract in any way from the tale, but it is peculiar that he felt compelled to include this 'twist.' Here, it makes sense.
For my money, this would make an amazing film, but it would be a long and bumpy one. Perhaps not, better as a book. If you haven't read it, you won't be disappointed, but you must be patient. It's long.
If you like this book, you might also like these: All the Light We Cannot See, Half of a Yellow Sun, Captain Corelli's Mandolin, Birds Without Wings, The Golem and the Djinni.
I loved the first part of this book where Josef's journey is charted, and the atmospheric descriptions of the pre-war New York in the 1940's. But the book soon begins to meander, and I was struggling to see a plot emerging. However, the language is beautiful, and when I thought, 'where are we going now' a beautiful or witty sentence would pull me back to the novel.
This is a book for boys about boys. It's a story about fathers, sons, cousins and brothers. There's only one major female character, which I must admit also made me identify with the story a little less. It didn't help that I'm also not particularly interested in comics (or graphic novels) - a major theme here.
Hence only three stars.
This story spans the war years and a little beyond. It is often heart-breaking, often exciting, and full of wonderful insight, especially about the place of comic books in American fiction. The stories are always about human beings, however, and this is no one-theme book. The adventures of these two admirable, though very different, men, touch on the themes of war (with a breath-taking struggle for survival in the Arctic for Joe who joins the Navy as soon as America enters the war), the striving of the boys to get improvements in their pay as all their work is indentured to their employer, love (of course), and the theme of escape. More than anything else, perhaps, escape is the touchstone, especially of Joe's early life, as he begins to learn of the exploits of Houdini, and yearns to follow in his footsteps. As with everything else, early exploits almost lead to disaster, and this too adds to the charm, sometimes rather naive, of the book.
This is an enjoyable read which encompasses most of the defining moments of two lives. It won a Pulitzer Prize in 20001 - an achievement richly deserved.
There's a lot of 'historical fiction' stuff going on, and to be fair the writing style is very 'literary', but it's also really exciting. It's written as a small, interpersonal drama, but all of the vivid characterisation and complex emotion is played out against this absolutely riveting, fast-paced, swashbuckling and unique story that is packed full of action and intrigue from start to finish.
This was a great book - good enough to re-read.