Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Final Solution

As written about on my other blog, author Michael Chabon (The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, Wonder Boys) has recently published "The Final Solution". It's a literary mystery about an 80-year-old unnamed man, retired and living in his messy quarters in 1944 Sussex, who looks out his window one day to be intrigued by a little boy with a black and red parrot on his shoulder walking by the train tracks. He inquires into the German child's home life, where it is found that he is living with an African vicar and his family as well as a few other lodgers, all of whom are occasionally treated to the parrot singing random sets of numbers in German. Days later, one of the lodgers is killed and the parrot is stolen. The Inspectors in town come to the old man, reknown for his mastery of solving cases, for his assistance in helping to find the thief and killer.

The novel is pretty good for the virtue of Chabon's artistic and lingual flair alone. This is the first of his works that I've read, and I already feel like I'm too familiar with his signature writing style. The peppering of difficult and obscure words throughout makes the experience much less accessible, and sometimes it seemed as if there were places where the narrative could've been explained in much simpler terms, but these things do not strike too hard against the book's appeal. Also, with this particular character (who is one of my favorites), Chabon takes very familiar stomping grounds and puts them in his own themes (dealing with old age, emotional awakening) and interests. As a result, the novel has to balance a dramatic and comedic examination of life with keeping up the momentum of clues towards solving both mysteries. Unfortunately, a lot of times, the examination wins out. This is not a major strike against the book either, but it is something I feel should definitely be addressed if for some reason Chabon decides to have a go at another book with this character.


To summarize, "The Final Solution" is quite the visual and in-depth book. Not always accessible, but still fun to read.