Filed under: book reviews, fiction | Tags: detective stories, england, final solution, michael chabon, mystery, nazis, novella, parrots, quotes, sherlock holmes
“A boy with a parrot on his shoulder was walking along the railway tracks.”
Michael Chabon has always been one of those authors and I think: “I’m going to love him. He will be one of my favorites. Now I just need to get around to actually reading him.” I’ve always categorized him, without reading him, with the likes of Eggers, Foer, and July. All youngish, newish, hipish authors and ones I’ve always looked forward to reading. For my clearing shelf project I finally got around to picking up Chabon and pleasantly made my way through his novella Final Solution.
Escaping the Nazis, Linus and his parrot come to England to stay out the war. But the string of numbers the parrot chatters in German becomes too tempting for some and a man is killed and the parrot goes missing. Belonging to an era reminiscent of Sherlock Holmes, an elderly, retired, bee-keeping detective becomes involved in the case of the missing parrot without being particularly concerned over the murder.
The Final Solution was my first piece in a long time where I had to write down the character’s names to keep them straight. A habit I started out of necessity and carried through much of college as a beneficial study method. While the names themselves were not particularly difficult, I did at times find Chabon’s writing style cumbersome and confusing. I recall an NPR interview with him and Chabon’s vocabulary is immense (perhaps he read Plotnik’s Spunk and Bite too?). For a 131-page story I found myself turning to my electronic dictionary with regularity, but perhaps so much that I found it difficult to be dazzled by Final Solution.
It is a fun “who done it” story, which does not necessarily provide all of the answers the reader might like by the end. Which I prefer. As things are not laid out clearly, I confess the temptation is strong to reread the book. But as I’m currently still slugging my way through Nelson Algren’s Never Come Morning and Isabel Allende’s Daughter of Fortune there must be a rain check for now on Chabon.
For another take on Final Solution as well as Chabon’s Yiddish Policemen’s Union, visit Steve over at Jewish Literary Review.