I LOVED this book. I’d picked it up once or twice before, but couldn’t ever seem to get into it. I knew it was something I had to read, though, so I brought it with me on a plane ride so I would be forced to push past the first twenty-five or so pages. It worked! And it ended up being one of the best reads of my life.
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay is, at its core, about comic books. That’s not to say that you have to be a comics fan to enjoy this book–I liked comic books a lot when I was growing up, but I wasn’t sure if I’d be interested in a book that focuses on them so heavily. The novel is about so much more than that, though. Joe Kavalier and Sammy Clay are cousins; Joe arrives in New York as a boy after having escaped from WWII-era Prague and moves in with Sammy’s family. Sammy quickly discovers that Joe is a talented artist, and soon convinces him to be his partner in creating comic books. Together, they invent The Escapist, a superhero inspired by Joe’s training in the art of escape and the boys’ mutual hatred of the Nazis.
There’s a lot more to it, but saying any more would ruin the experience of reading. That’s the basic plot that you need to know going into it–and know that it’s far more captivating than it may sound on paper. Chabon is a phenomenal writer, and his beautiful prose makes this book worth the read on its own. However, he also has created some truly remarkable characters, people so real that I couldn’t help but become completely invested in their stories. The book is as much about World War II and the daily pains and joys of any human life as it is about comic books; it’s complex and absorbing and you become completely immersed in the world being described.
Again, you don’t need to be a fan of comic books to enjoy this novel, but it certainly helps to have a basic knowledge of the form. Chabon intersperses the narrative with short chapters basically describing the comics that Sammy and Joe write, and these were some of my favorite parts of the book. The language in these sections is perfect, and it’s so easy to imagine how they would play out in graphic form.
This was unlike any other book I’ve read–I just loved it so much! I unreservedly recommend it to anyone, regardless of their usual reading preferences; it’s a complete masterpiece.