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The Yiddish Policemen's Union Hardcover – May 1, 2007
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Top Customer Reviews
Yiddish is certainly not dead in Michael Chabon's "The Yiddish Policemen's Union". In fact, the primary language of Jews throughout the "Pale of Settlement" (where Jews were allowed to live in Imperial Russia) suffuses this book with the rich aroma of a language whose every word can take on a paragraph or even chapter of meaning in the hands of the right speaker. Chabon is one such speaker (or writer) and "The Yiddish Policemen's Union" is a book that is rich in enjoyment.
"The Yiddish Policemen's Union" is an artful blend of genres, a blend of crime fiction and alternate history. I think of it as a blend of Dashiell Hammett's dark crime stories like "Red Harvest" and Philip Roth's alternate-history novel "The Plot Against America".
Chabon has created a world in which there is no Israel. Rather, Israel had been crushed in the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. Since that time the United States, partly as a result of guilt over the Holocaust has created a temporary homeland for displaced European Jews in and around Sitka, Alaska. Yiddish, not Hebrew, is the primary language. As the book opens, close to 60-years after the end of Israel, Sitka is due to revert back to U.S. control and the million or so inhabitants face the prospect of being stateless refugees. The hero, or protagonist, is Detective Meyer Landsman.Read more ›
This book is unique as it's not a speculative novel masquerading as Jewish noir, nor is it noir with a glossy veneer: it's everything at once. The questions of Jewish identity and what will happen to the community once the Reversion happens never takes away from the main tale; it's so well tucked in with the main action that Chabon never goes off on a tangent. All the while, Chabon plows ahead with a mystery that will set off chuckles of recognition as he hits and bounces upon every noir convention like a pinball. Informers, grieving mothers, loyal partners, the obligatory moment when an unconnected crime enters the frame - it's all there, but with its overlay of the Jewish community in the north, it feels fresh.
A few reviewers have commented that they missed out on Jewish in-jokes.Read more ›
Chabon is a genius and a madman, a wizard and a mensch. He's a wrecking crew, a culture-blender, and a rebbe packing heat. Who else would, or could, take Nick Charles and put him in Shalom Shachna's body? (Or maybe it's the other way around.) Equal parts Kabbalah and Ka-Bar, it's funny and gripping, and entertaining, and so heartbreaking at times it's hard to breathe.
In sum, I found it extraordinary - the concept, the language, the characters and the plot. It's not perfect, but it is simply one of the best novels I've read in a decade. Is that "helpful"? I doubt it. If I were you, I wouldn't want to know more. Spoilers are odious, irrelevant, and available elsewhere. If you love Chandler, Hammett, Roth, and I.B. Singer, I suspect you will love this.
Put some Manischewitz in a lowball and sit by the electric fire and crack this book open.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I am not Jewish and yet I enjoyed "The Yiddish Policemen's Union"--though I suspect that if I were Jewish I would have enjoyed it much more. Read morePublished 1 day ago by kvrfan
Any alternate history novel must have a plausible alternate time line in which to set the action. Mr. Chabon does this excellently., Itis a quite possible . happened . Read morePublished 15 days ago by SharkHunterSFO
The visual imagery in this book requires you to read it slowly. It's not a book you can skim. Just when you think you've got it figured out, it changes direction. Read morePublished 28 days ago by jpnlpinlove
This is an amazing book. It draws you in with its fantastic alternate-history premise: what if the Jews had never found a homeland in Israel, and instead had been allowed to find... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
This book was extremely clever. There were many parts I enjoyed reading aloud with my husband, it was so good. Read morePublished 1 month ago by palmetto
The author presented an interesting setting, a Jewish enclave in Sitka, and a mystery that was not unusual but was suspenseful. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Craig L Kautz