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Month in review

Reviews:
Adaptogenia by Wayne Wightman personal collection
And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell library book
The Cat Barked? by Lydia Monks library book
Cat Skidoo by Bethany Roberts and RW Alley personal collection
City Above the Sea by Stephen Alan Saft review copy
City Lullaby by Marilyn Singer library book
Corona Centurion™ by Terry Bisson personal collection
Economancer by Carolyn Ives Gilman personal collection
A Field Guide to Monsters by Johan Olander library book
Grey Seas Under by Farley Mowat bookcrossing
Grimm's Grimmest by Tracy Arah Dockray bookcrossing
Grumpy Cat by Britta Teckentrup personal collection
Handy Farm Devices and How to Make Them by Rolfe Cobleigh bookcrossing
Harriet's Recital by Nancy Carlton personal collection
I Feel Skitty by Tracey West personal collection
Kin by Holly Black review copy
The Loved One by Evelyn Waugh bookcrossing
Mama, Don't Go by Rebecca Wells library book
No, Never! by Sally O. Lee review copy
Oh, the Things I Know! by Al Franken bookcrossing
Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper library book
Paradiso Lost by Albert E. Cowdrey personal collection
Project Anastrophe by George Karnikis review copy
The Publishing Game: Publish a Book in 30 Days by Fern Reiss bookcrossing
The Shipwreck of a Nation by H Peter Nennhaus review copy
Skim by Mariko Tamaki review copy
Sooner or Later or Never Never by Gary Jennings personal collection
Talk to the Hand by Lynne Truss bookcrossing
The Thirteenth Tale by Dianne Setterfield bookcrossing
The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop by Lewis Buzbee bookcrossing
The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon library book
Yoko Writes Her Name by Rebecca Wells library book



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Rating System

5 stars: Completely enjoyable or compelling
4 stars: Good but flawed
3 stars: Average
2 stars: OK
1 star: Did not finish

Reading Challenges

My Kind of Mystery Reading Challenge 2017 February - January 2017-8



Comments for The Yiddish Policemen's Union

The Yiddish Policemen's UnionThe Yiddish Policemen's Union: 08/06/09

Meyer Landsman is a detective going through a messy divorce and stuck living in a fleabag motel. He just want to drink himself to death and forget about the stresses of his job and his life. Unfortunately for him there's a murder in his hotel and his exwife is now his boss. That's the set up to the murder mystery part of The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon.

The mystery takes place in a very different (an alternate) Sitka Alaska. It is in the last few months of a sixty year lease as a temporary refuge for Jews fleeing Europe in WWII. The alternate history part of the novel has earned The Yiddish Policemen's Union a number of science fiction awards but it certainly doesn't read like science fiction; alternate histories rarely do.

Michael Chabon's novel is smack in middle for me of two other altnerate histories I've read: Philip Roth's The Plot Against America (which I loved) and Vladimir Nabokov's Ada or Ardor: A Family Chronicle (which I didn't finish). Chabon's alternate version of things is interesting and easy to follow. The murder mystery isn't especially clever but would have made a nice cosy 250 page novel.

Together though, the alternate history and mystery compete too much for attention. Chabon focuses so much on pointing out just how well he has thought things through that he doesn't give Meyer Landsman time to investigate or the other characters to live their lives.

Finally there is the culture aspect of the novel. Although different sects are mentioned the characterization is rather flat. In trying to prove the legitimacy of this alternate Sitka Chabon's characters end up trying to out-Jew each other. I get that in this version of things Yiddish is a thriving language and in closed communities people tend to let everything hang out a little more but there is no true sense of sixty years having passed.

These descendants of the original refugees are stereotypes of old world Jews. There's very little influence of Alaska or native Alaskan culture on any of these people. There's no sense of the local geography, geology or weather. Sitka is not Austria, Poland, Germany, Russia or any of the places these refugees would have been coming from. The land and the other people nearby must have had an influence on their culture and traditions after sixty years. This fictional Jewish metropolis might as well have been set on the moon; there is almost nothing Alaskan in the book save for the delightful cover art on the edition I read.

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Comment #1: Friday, August, 7, 2009 at 13:16:45

Nicole

This sounds really interesting. I've never really read any alternate histories, that I can think of. It's a sub-genre I haven't really explored. I think I might enjoy it, though!



Comment #2: Monday, August 10, 2009 at 23:15:54

Pussreboots

Alternate histories get pegged as science fiction but they often aren't otherwise science fiction stories. Philip Roth, Vladimir Nabokov, Jasper Fforde and Philip K. Dick are all authors I've read who have written alternate histories. Happy reading!



Comment #3: Saturday, August, 8, 2009 at 09:14:04

Girl Detective

I raced through this; found it very easy and entertaining to read. it's been a while, so I forget details, but it read to me like an extended love letter to Chabon's wife, who is clearly the inspiration for Landsman's ex-wife. I also liked that it was Yiddish noir--an entertaining twist on a genre.

My review was here.

Comment #4: Monday, August 10, 2009 at 23:23:51

Pussreboots

Interesting bit of info. I really don't know anything about Chabon or his wife. In reading the book I felt that the alternate history drowned out the more interesting murder mystery and the relationship between Landsmen and his ex.



Comment #5: Saturday, August, 8, 2009 at 23:52:19

Framed

Great review. I had mixed feelings about this book and I think maybe now I know why. It wasn't until the end of the book that I even started liking Meyer a bit. I haven't decided whether to try another of Chabon's books or not.



Comment #6: Monday, August 10, 2009 at 23:28:42

Pussreboots

I had similar feeling about Meyer but I think that comes back to the fact that his characterization takes back burner to the world building. I will try another Chabon book.