This novel served as my introduction to the concept of alternative histories - fascinating idea, that. Chabon writes up a very believable world of post WWII America-ish Alaska with a yiddish accent; and he knows about gangsters, too! It is a steady paced & amusing read. Be prepared to ask people or google yiddish words and slang...which lead me to an essay about the loss of a culture & a language, by same author. The warm funny tones of yiddish overpower the gritty noir ishness of the story, in my memory.
One of my favorite novels, I had to reread it to appreciate the story and characters fully. Patience will be rewarded!
This is a murder mystery set in a Sitka that might have existed had the hopes of a Jewish homeland in the frozen north of Alaska come to pass after 1949 instead of the turbulent Israel we have today. Meyer Landsman, a down and out homicide detective living in a flea-bag building, is confronted with investigating a murder of a neighbour. We follow his trail and get a strong sense of the city with its many dark spots, marking it as just like any other city, except for the bitter cold. Crimes of every kind; competing gangs and factions to be wary of. The game of chess and the promised return of the Messiah figure prominently in the array of clues Freedman has to work with. The beginning was a bit of a struggle until I got into the rhythm of the writing and the progression of the plot. The introduction of many yiddish words and phrases were a bit of a distraction as I don"t know much (or any) yiddish, but they didn't figure prominently in the bones of the story so I didn't get lost. I did enjoy the story but the draggy beginning was a bit of a chore to get through.
Absolutely one of my favourite novels ever.....I want to go to that gritty, mystical Sitka that Michael Chabon invented and stay awhile....
An odd blend of future history, noir, and literary fiction. Chabon's ability to turn a clever phase is without doubt, but the lengthy descriptions detract from the plot making this seeming detective yarn into a bit of a plod.
Didn't finish. Not a compelling plot and too much yiddish jargon/reference to plod through.
"Imagine if tiny Sitka, Alaska, had been annexed as a temporary territory for homeless Jews after World War II. This odd proposition makes for a wonderfully surreal setting populated by rabbis, chess masters, and ultra-orthodox gangsters. In the midst of all this is Meyer Landsman, a depressed, alcoholic, and irreligious Jewish homicide cop who's only got a couple months to figure out who murdered a heroin-addicted former chess prodigy and gangster before Sitka reverts to Alaska and Sitka's Jews find themselves homeless once more. "Impressively wacky," says The New York Times." Fiction A to Z October 2013 newsletter http://www.nextreads.com/Display2.aspx?SID=5acc8fc1-4e91-4ebe-906d-f8fc5e82a8e0&N=691547
Relentlessly inventive novelist Michael Chabon invents a new genre, the dystopian hardboiled alternative history mystery. His hero, Meyer Landsman, is an alcoholic cop in Sitka, the makeshift resettlement territory established for the Jews in the desolate, dark reaches of Alaska after the promised Jewish homeland turned to ashes in 1949. When a middle-aged junkie is found dead in the fleabag hotel Landsmann calls home, he persuades his reluctant partner and cousin, the half Jewish/half Tlingit Berko Shemets, to join him in the investigation. Chabon serves up a rich stew of dark and demonized characters in a book that is as improbably believable as an episode of The Sopranos crossed with Philip Roth's The Contract Against America. Note: keep a copy of Leo Rosten's The Joy of Yiddish handy. Unless you grew up in one of the 5 boroughs, you'll need it.
Mainstream author who is not a genre snob. An feat of alternate history, very evocative about Jewish identity, and a damn good noir mystery too.
V interesting detective/mystery, fast paced. Funny. Lots of Jewish words thrown into the dialogue - takes awhile to figure out what some of them are but good fun.
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