The Amazing Adventures Of Kavalier And Clay by Michael Chabbon
This book takes me back … about thirteen years back to be precise. I was in the middle of a work experience stint at HarperCollins for what was Harper Press (where I ended up working) but is now @williamcollins, working next to the team @4thestate. One of the publishing directors there very kindly gave me a copy of this to read — I mean, if I wasn’t getting paid any money, at least I could bag myself a few freebies, right?! — and I have to say, cringey as it sounds, it changed me. It changed how I looked at reading and it changed how I perceived the power of books themselves. I struggled with the first fifty pages, but was warned that I would so I persevered (and I would urge you to, too). I was then glued to these pages, totally engrossed in the story they held. When I finished, I felt the way you do when you’re done with only the greatest of novels; that the characters are your dearest friends and that you aren’t entirely sure how you’ll manage without them. But the truth is, I haven’t needed to; Joe Kavalier and Sammy Klayman have stayed with me ever since.
Sophie insisted I read this and I am so glad I persisted. Initially difficult, with descriptions of the most innocuous and minute elements given centre stage (five sentences about the evening light shining, an early example). This did bring to life the scenery and characters — you can sense New York around you. The story centres around a young man fleeing the ever burgeoning horrors of Nazi rule and the friendship with his American cousin. They develop comics as a form of escapism and an act of defiance, mirroring the real promulgation and origins of today’s Marvel and DC Hollywood blockbusters.
At the core of this story is the heart-wrenching portrayal of a survivor’s desperation and trauma. Kavalier’s entire existence becomes focused on trying to save the family he left behind, the conflict with his blossoming life is juxtaposed with the devastating guilt. Half way through, the pace quickens becoming completely gripping. Dialogue that will stay with me forever are the characters discussing what is a sane reaction to the trauma of WW2. A beautiful read.