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The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay

Michael Chabon

Average Review Rating Average Rating 9/10 (1 Review)
Book Details

Publisher : Fourth Estate

Published : 2001

Copyright : Michael Chabon 2000

ISBN-10 : PB 1-84115-493-8
ISBN-13 : PB 978-1-84115-493-0

Publisher's Write-Up

Winner of the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction from the author of Wonder Boys.

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay is a heart-wrenching story of escape, love and comic-book heroes set in Prague, New York and the Arctic. One night in 1939, Josef Kavalier shuffles into his cousin Sam Clay's cramped New York bedroom, his nerve-racking escape from Prague finally achieved. Little does he realise that this is the beginning of an extraordinary friendship and even more fruitful business partnership.

Together, they create a comic strip called The Escapist, its superhero a Nazi-busting saviour who liberates the oppressed around the world. The Escapist makes their fortune, but Joe can think of only one thing: how can he effect a real-life escape, and free his family from the tyranny of Hitler?

Michael Chabon's exceptional novel is a thrilling tight-rope walk between high comedy and bitter tragedy, and confirms his position as one of the most inventive and daring of contemporary American writers. In Joe Kavalier and Sam Clay, he has created two unforgettable characters bound together by love, family and cartoons.

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Reader Reviews

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Review by John Alwyine-Mosely (310310) Rating (9/10)

Review by John Alwyine-Mosely
Rating 9/10
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay was an instant popular and critical success when it came out in 2000 being nominated for a raft of awards. It won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2001 and Hollywood has been sniffing around it ever since. Michael Chabon the author wrote the only known screenplay, which struggled to reduce a 635-page book to a 2-hour film. At one point, the cast was Toby Maguire (Peter in Spiderman) to play Sam Clay, Natalie Portman (V for Vendetta) to play Rosa Saks and Jude Law to play Joe Kavalier.

The difficulties for the film is what makes the book a joy as it starts in 1938 as Superman bursts on the scene and ends in 1954 as the Kefauver Senate hearings delivers the death blow to a declining comic book industry. A central theme is the roles of the Jews in the comic book industry: it explores the mythology of the comic hero and its impact on Joe and Sam’s own struggles and personal journeys from the stories of the Escapist which in turn shape their lives. Sam struggling to come to terms with being Gay and Joe trying to rescue his family stuck in an increasingly bleak Nazi run Prague.

It also explores the historical rip-off of the artists and writers of the period. Superman's creators did not come into the real money until the blockbuster Superman movies and a court case prised the money out of Hollywood's coffers. Historical characters from the period from the comic industry and the movie, art and political world come in and out of the story. The Escapist also draws on Joe Kavalier's training and experience of magic and Houdini type tricks and the impact this has on his life.

The writing is a tour de force so that you hear, touch and smell the period. Each character has their own voice and even minor characters when they enter the story in a few paragraphs you have their back-story and motives seamlessly woven in so they become real characters. The point of view moves from character to character and no easy option or resolution is allowed as the story builds to the magic trick ending. Scenes are comic one minute and bitterly tragic the next as you join in the rollercoaster of their lives. Yes, I am going say it... if you only have the chance to read one book this year make it this one, you won’t be disappointed.
John Alwyine-Mosely (31st March 2010)

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