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The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
Michael Chabon
636 pages

In 1939, Josef Kavalier's parents, wishing to keep him safe from persecution against the Jews, arranged for him to travel from Prague to the United States. On arrival in New York City, he met his cousin Sam Klayman and, through both talent and luck, the two young men were able to launch a superhero comic book just at the point when the genre was becoming popular. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay is the story of their business partnership and their lifelong friendship.

The book covers a period of some twenty years and is both broad in its scope and deep in its many layers of character and plot. Joe is the most well-developed character in the novel. In Prague he trained as a magician and a Houdini-like escape artist. He is also a very talented artist. However, he is haunted by guilt and other demons. Tormented by leaving his family behind, he tries desperately to rescue them and acts out his anger on Germans he encounters in New York City. He finds love in Rosa Saks, but leaves her behind when, immediately after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, he enlists in the Navy to act out his need for revenge on the Germans.

Sam Klayman's character is somewhat less developed, but still appealing. Abandoned by his father and devoted to his mother, it is Sam who spots Joe's artistic talent and persuades his boss to launch a comic book featuring a character known as The Escapist. Sam is largely unaware of his sexual identity, and one of the more touching scenes involves both emerging awareness of his homosexuality, and his realization that society would not accept him if this were known. Sam proves himself a true friend when he sacrifices his own happiness in a selfless act for another person.

Despite its length, this book was an easy and fun read. In addition to the well-drawn characters, the book offers up historical detail concerning the comic book industry, the Empire State Building, World War II, and post-war New York City. It's easy to see why this book won the Pulitzer Prize. ( )


( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 21st, 2008 04:25 am (UTC)
I am glad you enjoyed this one, Laura. I do hope to read it one of these days. My husband really enjoyed it when he read it. I recommended it to him based on the comic book background.
Sep. 21st, 2008 10:16 am (UTC)
Thanks Wendy! Don't let its length put you off, I read this much more quickly than I expected.
Sep. 21st, 2008 11:05 am (UTC)
I really hope to get to this one soon. I just posted on Wendy's blog that I too need to evaluate what my challenge commitments are and see what I can finish by December.

Kavalier and Clay was earmarked for two of my challenge, I think, so I really want to get to it!

=) Great review!
Sep. 21st, 2008 02:29 pm (UTC)
We all seem to be either reading this or making plans to. I must move it higher up the New York project pile.
Sep. 21st, 2008 09:06 pm (UTC)
Yes, you should! It fits the theme well, and it's quite a fun read.
Sep. 21st, 2008 05:17 pm (UTC)
I've had a hard time getting into this one, but I'm enjoying it once I did get into it, especially as I mentioned over on my blog when I got to Chapter 8, which detailed the origins of The Escapist. Brilliant: I can't wait to get back to it this afternoon after brunch here with my wife.
Sep. 21st, 2008 05:17 pm (UTC)
Ooops. That last comment was me.
Sep. 21st, 2008 09:07 pm (UTC)
Thanks for stopping by. Enjoy the rest of the book!
Sep. 21st, 2008 07:28 pm (UTC)
I have this one on my shelf - it's one that keeps calling to me. It seems like such a boy book so I'll have to be in the right mood for it. Maybe it'll start 2009.
Sep. 21st, 2008 09:07 pm (UTC)
Yes Terri, it IS a "boy book". But I think you can handle it ... :-)
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )