It’s easy to see why Michael Chabon’s famed novel The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay has not only won a Pulitzer Prize, but is also considered his magnum opus; it’s an extensive work of fiction which weaves together history, comic books, and personal stories with a seemingly effortless flair. It was my next choice on my 65 Book Challenge list and a fantastic way to follow up after my previous emotional read.
I have to admit that I’m somewhat of a historical fiction junky, and I broached Chabon’s book The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay with no expectations, no concept of what the book would be about, and no prior exposure to any of Chabon’s other works. With a bad novel this would have been a plan which would have gone terribly awry, however, with Chabon’s novel it’s a plan that worked to perfection.
I was pleasantly, pleasantly surprised all the way through, firstly, with the topic of comic books which is one I’ve never read about in fiction, and secondly, with the historical setting: New York during WWII and after. In many ways, there was a dual nature at war within The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, on one end you have a private glimpse into the art world, the comic book business, and the wistful lives of famous characters in New York in the 1940s. But when you flip the coin you get an even more inside look at the personal struggles of different protagonists in New York dealing with a variety of global issues: whether it’s a young Jew struggling with the idea of a terrible war abroad, or a man struggling to suppress his own inherent nature, the reader is consistently reminded of the bigger issues at hand.
If Chabon had somehow failed to connect the comic book theme with all the larger problems present in his book, then I would be giving a very different and less positive review. But for me Chabon created a web of interconnected ideas which in some way all led back to the opening of the book where the comic book theme is launched. Comic books are the dark horse of this story, they remain as the stable figurine which travels with the characters across the globe and into vast, fantastical, and imaginary worlds. They are the heroes of the story, expressing ideas amongst their pages which the characters themselves cannot, and allowing for justice in their fantasy realms in a time where it seemed that evil had prevailed in the real world.
Therefore, if you do choose to pick up The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, you should do so not only for the joy of learning about the humble beginnings of some of the most beloved comic book characters, but also for the emotional connection that these objects and this art form begins to offer as you proceed through the novel.
I look forward to hearing your thoughts on Michael Chabon’s novel and being able to compare and contrast different points of view, so be sure to leave some comments for us to read! As always, happy reading! :)