The brilliantly original new novel from Michael Chabon, author of the Pulitzer prize-winning 'The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay' For sixty years Jewish refugees and their descendants have prospered in the Federal District of Sitka, a 'temporary' safe haven created in the wake of revelations of the Holocaust and the shocking 1948 collapse of the ...
The brilliantly original new novel from Michael Chabon, author of the Pulitzer prize-winning 'The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay' For sixty years Jewish refugees and their descendants have prospered in the Federal District of Sitka, a 'temporary' safe haven created in the wake of revelations of the Holocaust and the shocking 1948 collapse of the fledgling state of Israel. Proud, grateful and longing to be American, the Jews of the Sitka District have created their own little world in the Alaskan panhandle, a vibrant, gritty, soulful and complex frontier city that moves to the Yiddish beat. Now, after sixty years of federal neglect, the District is set to revert to Alaskan control, and their dream is coming to an end: once again the tides of history threaten to sweep them up and carry them off into the unknown. But homicide detective Meyer Landsman has enough problems without worrying about the upcoming Reversion. His life is a shambles, his marriage a wreck, his career a disaster. He and his half-Tlingit partner, Berko Shemets, can't catch a break in any of their outstanding cases. Landsman's new supervisor is the love of his life -- and also his worst nightmare. And then someone's got the nerve to commit a murder in the flophouse Landsman calls home. Out of habit, obligation and a half-cocked shot at redemption, he begins to investigate the killing of his neighbor, a former chess prodigy, and soon finds himself contending with all the powerful forces of faith, obsession, evil and salvation that are his heritage -- and with the unfinished business of his marriage to Bina Gelbfish, the one person who understands his darkest fears. At once a gripping whodunit, a love story, an homage to 1940s noir, and an exploration of the mysteries of exile and redemption, "The Yiddish Policemen's Union" is a novel only Michael Chabon could have written.
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Especially for people interested in the different styles of language. A little background in Jewish culture helps, too.
Apr 8, 2010
I love to read - especially works that are well written in modern english. Chabon writes with colors. His sentences are little worlds that need to be explored. As you read through
the text, you wonder how a writer could craft a story with such brilliant descriptions. I found myself going back to sentences that I found engrossing. This novel has a Jewish theme
with fair amount of yiddish thrown in. Chabon translates the english for the reader. You don't have to be Jewish to read this book. You do have to love great writing.
Feb 28, 2009
Haven't started it yet. Just finished another one of Chabon's books; I like his writing style. So my rating may be inaccurate.
Jan 27, 2009
A disappointment from a favorite author
I not only really wanted to like The Yiddish Policemen?s Union by Michael Chabon, I expected to love it. Chabon is one of my favorite authors, and Kavalier and Clay is a true masterpiece. However, his latest novel is a far cry from, really, any of his previous works.
An alternate-history book that will draw inevitable comparisons to Philip Roth?s The Plot Against America, Chabon envisions a world where, as FDR actually suggested (which I didn?t know) that a Jewish settlement be located in Alaska. Derisively called the ?frozen Chosen? by Americans (referred to as ?our neighbors in the South? by the locals), the area is due to be returned to America, and the Jews are due to go?somewhere.
?It?s a strange time to be a Jew,? almost every character states at one point or another, and indeed it?s true. This is the backdrop to the novel, which in most respects is ? or attempts to be ? a hardboiled detective story.
Our Mickey Spillane is a policeman named Meyer Landsman, a beaten-down shell of his former self, who spends his nights drunk and contemplating suicide. One morning, he?s called to investigate the murder of someone also living in his fleabag hotel.
I?d get into the story, which involves several different sects of Jews, chess and the Holy Land?but it?s really hard for me to do that. The book feels far too clever for its own good, and at several times Chabon refers back to characters who I barely remembered ? who turn out to be incredibly important and relevant. In the zeal to keep this alternative history ?real,? Chabon can?t draw out a historical review, so characters casually refer to things, in Yiddish slang no less, that take several repetitions to make sense. Many characters have similar, unfamiliar Eastern European names, and the way their roles intertwine gets more confusing as the book progresses, until perhaps the last third of the book.
Perhaps most disappointingly, the book seems to explain itself towards the end in two somewhat cheap ways ? through a flashback, and then by Landsman suddenly figuring a key component out in the last few pages. It feels beneath an author as brilliantly talented as Chabon, and while there?s no denying it?s a good book, it?s far from a great one. I didn?t much care for most of the characters, but I perservered because it was Chabon, and also because I did want to see the story play out?which it only sort of does.
All in all, a disappointment, and a book I couldn?t honestly recommend.
Jul 13, 2007
Chabon's Alternate Universe
In this ambitious novel, Michael Chabon carries on the great literary tradition of crafting an alternate universe from the jumping off point of WWII. Just like Phillip K. Dick's "The Man in The High Castle" and Phillip Roth's "The Plot Against America", Chabon's Policemen's Union dissects the many paths of history and its effects on a people. Chabon departs from the aforementioned authors by presenting a vision that is as quirky and just plain fun as what we've come to expect from his novels. "The Yiddish Policeman's Union" is part fantasy, part crime novel with plenty of hilarious asides. And even though it takes place in frigid Alaska, this is good summer reading.
Publishers Weekly, 2007-03-05 They are the "frozen Chosen," two million people living, dying and kvetching in Sitka, Alaska, the temporary homeland established for displaced World War II Jews in Chabon's ambitious and entertaining new novel. It is-deep breath now-a murder-mystery speculative-history Jewish-identity noir chess thriller, so perhaps it's no surprise that, in the back half of the book, the moving parts become unwieldy; Chabon is juggling narrative chainsaws here. The novel begins-the same way that Philip Roth launched The Plot Against America-with a fascinating historical footnote: what if, as Franklin Roosevelt proposed on the eve of World War II, a temporary Jewish settlement had been established on the Alaska panhandle? Roosevelt's plan went nowhere, but Chabon runs the idea into the present, back-loading his tale with a haunting history. Israel failed to get a foothold in the Middle East, and since the Sitka solution was only temporary, Alaskan Jews are about to lose their cold homeland. The book's timeless refrain: "It's a strange time to be a Jew." Into this world arrives Chabon's Chandler-ready hero, Meyer Landsman, a drunken rogue cop who wakes in a flophouse to find that one of his neighbors has been murdered. With his half-Tlingit, half-Jewish partner and his sexy-tough boss, who happens also to be his ex-wife, Landsman investigates a fascinating underworld of Orthodox black-hat gangs and crime-lord rabbis. Chabon's "Alyeska" is an act of fearless imagination, more evidence of the soaring talent of his previous genre-blender, the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. Eventually, however, Chabon's homage to noir feels heavy-handed, with too many scenes of snappy tough-guy banter and too much of the kind of elaborate thriller plotting that requires long explanations and offscreen conspiracies. Chabon can certainly write noir-or whatever else he wants; his recent Sherlock Holmes novel, The Final Solution, was lovely, even if the New York Times Book Review sniffed its surprise that the mystery novel would "appeal to the real writer." Should any other snobs mistake Chabon for anything less than a real writer, this book offers new evidence of his peerless storytelling and style. Characters have skin "as pale as a page of commentary" and rough voices "like an onion rolling in a bucket." It's a solid performance that would have been even better with a little more Yiddish and a little less police. (May) Jess Walter was a finalist for the 2006 National Book Award for The Zero and the winner of the 2006 Edgar Award for best novel for Citizen Vince. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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