Monday, August 28, 2006


One last puzzle for the master.

Michael Chabon, The Final Solution (Harper Perennial 2005).

When I headed to the bookshelf after finishing Austerlitz and pulled down The Final Solution, little did I realize that the plot of Michael Chabon’s book also revolves around the mysterious past of a Jewish boy from the Continent orphaned in England during World War II. This parallel was the kiss of death for my reading experience, for it exposed Chabon’s book as little more than an entertainment. Surely the comparison is unfair. While Sebald uses Jacques Austerlitz’s past to confront the Holocaust, Chabon uses his young refugee’s origins as little more than the key to a hidden treasure in a mystery starring an aged Sherlock Holmes who comes out of dotage keeping bees to solve one last mystery, one hinging on the secret of the refugee’s pet parrot.

There is nothing to dislike about The Final Solution, but although Chabon’s writing is lovely there’s not an awful lot going on beneath the surface either. Perhaps Holmes aficionados will plumb greater depths here than I did. And what was Chabon thinking with that title?

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