A strange time for Jews

Last summer, I began but couldn't finish Michael Chabon's Pulitzer-tastic 'The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay'. Nothing against it, I only managed a few pages every day, and that wasn't enough to get immersed into it. So I went back to it last month, and it's dead good. More importantly, it meant that I was able to get to his new book, The Yiddish Policemen's Union without wondering how Kavalier and Clay ended.

I listened to it audio-style, which I don't think I enjoy as much as actually reading, plus it really battered my oink ratio. But it's still a quick way to get through a book. Anyway, I finished it earlier today, so here's some thoughts. The premise is interesting - what if a group of Jewish refugees were transported to Alaska during the war, and now, sixty years later, they were soon to be kicked out? Into that throw in a very noirish murder and detective story, and you've got something to really sink your teeth into.

Unlike K&C, I found this really easy to follow for a long time. It centres around the main character, the homicide detective Landsman, and moves forward in time very linearly. It was riveting enough, and easy enough to keep up with. Then, about halfway in, it becomes really dense really quickly. There are lots of new characters coming in and out, lots of back-story to paint a fuller picture, and it got a little confusing. From there on out, I struggled to get really hooked back into it, as I was for the first half. The events play out to a sort-of satisfactory conclusion, but I'm still a little amiss about exactly why everything unravels the way it does, and the book spoiler is no help.

There is still a lot to enjoy, though. The dialogue is great, there are some terrific characters, the Yiddish slang is interesting and there's some nice Chandler-style moments of great detective work. And lots and lots of drinking, smoking and swearing. Read it! But read 'Kavalier and Clay' first.

Just don't hold your breath waiting for the movie.


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