Book Reviews

Review: The Final Solution – February 2013

the final solutionI picked up The Final Solution, by Michael Chabon, not knowing anything about it other than the fact that it was 131 pages, including some illustrations, and it was written by a writer whose work I have enjoyed in the past. I wanted to pick something that would be quick (because, yes, my total number of books read so far is a little behind), but smart.

The back page summary seemed interesting enough. A reclusive retired detective living in the English country-side is more content with bee-keeping than interacting with his fellow man. Into his life walks an intelligent but mute boy and his exotic African parrot. The boy is a Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany, and his bird never leaves his side, repeating a random string of numbers in German regularly and peaking the curiosity of several characters. When a murder occurs, and the bird is stolen, the detective is recruited to help solve the case.

And the detective is Sherlock Holmes. It’s never stated, but it’s incredibly obvious, and had I known I probably would not have picked this book. I’ve never read a Sherlock Holmes mystery, and as such I have a nagging feeling that I probably missed a lot of references in this short little book. The mystery itself is fine, I suppose, if you like that sort of thing, but honestly, I’m finding that I don’t.

I think my issue is that I love character driven stories, and this novella is framed through a previously developed character. Each additional character in the novella, including the parrot, has his own motivations, but “the old man” is the protagonist grounding the story. Having not read the source material, I felt a bit cheated. The story seemed almost hollow somehow, which I’m sure was not Chabon’s intent.

All of that being said, it’s a very well crafted little story. I’m sure if you enjoyed Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s collection, you’d enjoy this. 3 Stars

Random Thoughts

Random Thoughts I

+ I’ve been at this little project for about a month, and I’m pretty happy with how it’s progressing. Since starting Jen Can Read, I’ve canceled my cable (again), and when I run out of current episodes of my favorite shows on Hulu I find myself choosing to pick up a book rather than find a movie to watch. When I was younger, I used to spend hours devouring every type of fiction, from Wyatt Earp and Johnny Tremaine to The Baby-Sitter’s Club: Kid Sister. The idea of sitting in silence, completely focused on one story for hours and hours was not strange or daunting, but thrilling. I haven’t completely found my way back to that unbridled delight, but I have certainly learned to relish a 30 minute respite from the constant communication and noise that is so very prevalent in my life. So, while this project is aimed at a higher purpose, on a personal level I’m really enjoying it.

+ Gone Girl is still slow going for me, but after talking with a friend who has already read it, I have a renewed sense of purpose. I’d already guessed the twist about a quarter of the way through it, and my friend confirmed my suspicion. I know, SPOILERS! But in doing so, she helped me figure out how to read it – i.e. not the WHAT but the HOW. This will all make more sense once I write the review, I’m sure, so please bear with me. Regardless, I’m trying to finish the book this week.

Actually, most of the other books on my Currently Reading list, including American Gods, are paused for the moment until I finish Gone Girl. I have such a distaste for it at the moment, that I feel if I don’t finish it as quickly as possible, I won’t ever want to. Apparently this is blasphemy to the whole internet, the entire population of which thoroughly enjoyed the novel, and I am broken and crazy because I don’t. But that’s alright – to each his own.

+ I listened to NPR on the radio this morning on my way into work. They did a story on the declining sales of the Barnes & Noble Nook. Apparently the Chairman and chief stockholder, Leonard Riggio, is planning to buy the BN stores, but NOT the Nook. Here’s the article that better explains it. What this means, potentially, is that Microsoft and a company called Pearson can spend their money improving the Nook and making it more competitive in the iPad/Kindle market, while the Riggio can focus on the brick-and-mortar stores and make them more competitive with Amazon, killer of all things brick-and-mortar*.

So today during my lunch break, I decided to go buy a real paper-and-ink book from a real brick-and-mortar store. I realize it would have been far better to shop at an independent book store, but things be as they are and my office being smack dab in the middle of urban sprawl, I did not have that luxury. I bought Michael Chabon’s The Final Solution, a very brief 131 page – is novella the right word? – novella. I’d like to have a little more regular content up, so buying a few shorter books and supporting a real-life book store, massive (dying) conglomerate though it may be, seemed the right route to go. So, I have a teeny tiny book that I plan to read on my lunches this week, and hopefully I’ll have more than one review comin’ atcha soon.

*Like I can really judge. Let’s be honest, I own a Kindle Fire and buy eBooks from them on the reg, and at Christmastime, I use my AmEx points to buy ALLTHEPRESENTS on amazon.com.