Two nights ago, I finished what is now my favourite book of the year (so far!): Michael Chabon’s “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay”.
I read his “The Yiddish Policemen’s Union” earlier this year and loved every page. “…Kavalier and Clay” was even better.
Set before the USA decided to join in the fun and games of the Second World War, we meet two cousins and follow their lives through to the 1950s. Brought together by blood, religion and a love of comics, they get in on the act early, writing and drawing their own superheroes.
It follows their humble beginnings in the comic book industry to fame and fortune after they hit the big time with a successful hero. The acknowledgements at the end of the book reference so many of the comic book greats, it just shows the author did his research.
The scope of the story is impressive, with regular, incredibly detailed flashbacks to pre-war Europe and various other historical asides. I found it incredibly engrossing – I suppose my love of comics helped! – but even someone who knows nothing about comics or even actively dislikes the medium could enjoy this book.
The characters are never boring. Intense, interesting, not always likeable. But I ended up caring about what happened to each of them, which I think is a mark of writer’s skill.
I was drawn in for hours at a time. It made for some tough early mornings after too little sleep, but I don’t regret a minute of it.
Kavalier and Clay was one of the books I was genuinely sorry to see finish. While simultaneously feeling a tension in also wanted to know what happened to all the characters “in the end”.
I found it moving, compelling and beautifully written. If you like creativity, respect passionate artists and enjoy reading about the creative process, this is for you. A love of ‘golden age’ super hero antics wouldn’t go amiss either.
Five stars for sure.