Review of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay - Michael Chabon

This is the fifth book I've read for the Rory Gilmore Reading Challenge and honestly, I went in to it with a fair bit of trepidation. Generally I find books lauded with critical praise and awards to be a bit overblown and overhyped and whether that's a fair judgement or more of a knee jerk "I don't have to like this just because you say I should" reaction (spoiler alert: it's the second one), that is my own particular bias. 


In the case of Kavalier and Clay, I think there is definitely a bit of hype going on. The book suffers from being overly long and Chabon has a tendency to get a bit overly enthusiastic with the history of his subject, launching into sidebars on the history of both comics and escape artists that don't really drive the plot forward or enrich the story in any way. And the footnotes were both unnecessary and off-putting, pulling me out of the story rather than engaging me. 


That said, I did really enjoy this book. Chabon has a gift for immersing the reader into a specific place and time. His dialogue is lively and entertaining and I found myself laughing frequently, particularly throughout parts 2, 3 and 4. The characters were interesting, although I never did manage to completely warm to Joe, and did find myself wishing there were more women in the novel. Honestly, with 600+ pages you'd think Chabon could have managed more than a mother and a girlfriend who barely make it past stereotype. Rosa, in particular, is frustrating because she has so much potential and could be so very interesting, and is, when she's with Sam, but for some reason Chabon consistently pulls her back into cliched territories with Joe. Sam, though. I have to say, by the midpoint of the novel I had become very, very attached to Sam. In fact, Sam is the reason I've rated the book 4 stars rather than 3.5. I rooted for him, laughed with him and cried for him (a few times). I wish the novel had been weighted more towards his story rather than Joe's, or at least balanced a little more evenly between the two. 


Ultimately, for me, this was a good read. I was entertained and found myself immersed in the story and the world Chabon created to the point where I'm still actively thinking about it. The writing itself is skilled and well crafted and I'll likely read it again.