Book 7: Gentlemen of the Road, Michael Chabon

December 3, 2008 at 8:51 pm (Review) (, , , )

Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay is one of my favourite books ever. It breaks my heart and uplifts me in a new way every time I read it. So Gentlemen of the Road was going to have a lot to live up to for me and in many respects it does. The story centres round three charachters Zeilkman, who is traumatised by seeing his Mother and sister killed, Amram who has been searching for 20 years for his kidnapped daughter and Fliaq who is seeking revenge for the murder of his family. Amram and Zeilkman attempt to rescue Fliaq’s against he will and become embroiled in a civil war in the Kingdom of the Khazars. It’s a strange, lightly convoluted plot that I enjoyed an awful lot.

This novel is both a road story and an adventure story, with a little bit of Gulliver’s Travels about it in the way that it looks at fictive societies to make a comment about real. Chabon sets it in what feels like our world geographically, there is a nominally middle eastern feel to the location. He uses this to explore how Jews, Muslims and Christians share the land and the divergence in their views and ways of living. This makes comparisons to modern day politics almost impossible to avoid. I think that he is pretty even handed in his attitudes to each group. I know that some people find this sort of fictional commentary off putting but you really shouldn’t in this case because Chabon’s skill as a writer stops it from ever becoming hectoring or belligerent.

If you discount the political/religious aspects the book you are left with a delightful adventure, with all sorts of derring do and spectacular rescues. I love this sort of quasi-fairytale type of fiction. When they are well written like this one I am taken out of myself and the world I inhabit in a way that is like reading when I was a kid. It’s fun to recapture a bit of that magic when you’ve found yourself growing in to a old cynic.

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