This is the second of Chabon's books I've read, so my expectations were set pretty high. Unfortunately, it's hard to measure up to The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. Basically the premise for this book is an actual Senate proposal from the 1940s that, should the Jews lose
Landsman notices how quiet it is on Verbov Island, in the snow, inside a stone barn, with dark coming on, as the profane week and the world that profaned it prepare to be plunged into the flame of two matched candles.
"That's right," Zimbalist says at last. "Mendel Shpilman. The only son. He had a twin brother who was born dead. Later, that was interpreted as a sign."
The whole book is wildly imaginative, full of Yiddish puns that I really didn't understand (if you know why a Shoyfer should be a name for a cell phone, please tell me), and a few that I did (a restaurant named "Hands of Esau"). It was a great tribute to 1940s noir, with everyone in porkpie hats, smoking like chimneys and solving crimes involving Russian mobsters. The dark and gritty noir feel meshed strangely well with the Yiddish puns and snappy dialogue. Unfortunately, at times, the gimmick got in the way of the story. Having such a far-fetched setting has to be incredibly hard to pull of (David Mitchell managed it with Cloud Atlas unbelievably well). The book lost steam towards the middle, landing in an uncomfortable zone where it was too realistic to be surreal, but too far-fetched to feel believable. It picked back up at the end, and was a great, unique read. I'm still a Chabon fan.