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Publisher's Summary

Pulitzer Prize, Fiction, 2001

It's 1939, in New York City. Joe Kavalier, a young artist who has also been trained in the art of Houdiniesque escape, has just pulled off his greatest feat: smuggling himself out of Hitler's Prague. He's looking to make big money, fast, so that he can bring his family to freedom. His cousin, Brooklyn's own Sammy Clay, is looking for a partner in creating the heroes, stories, and art for the latest novelty to hit the American dreamscape: the comic book.

Inspired by their own fantasies, fears, and dreams, Kavalier and Clay create the Escapist, the Monitor, and the otherworldly Mistress of the Night, Luna Moth, inspired by the beautiful Rosa Saks, who will become linked by powerful ties to both men. The golden age of comic books has begun, even as the shadow of Hitler falls across Europe.

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay is a stunning novel of endless comic invention and unforgettable characters, written in the exhilarating prose that has led critics to compare Michael Chabon to Cheever and Nabokov. In Joe Kavalier, Chabon has created a hero for the century.

©2012 Brilliance Audio, Inc. (P)2000 Michael Chabon

Critic Reviews

"Michael Chabon can write like a magical spider, effortlessly spinning out elaborate webs of words that ensnare the reader with their beauty and their style." (Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times)

What listeners say about The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay

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Storytelling at its best

Pure power play with words. Exceptional writing by the Author. Storytelling at its best. Kudos

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  • Darwin8u
  • 12-06-12

A World I DON'T Ever Want to Escape From.

Let's just get this out in the open -- Michael Chabon is an amazing prose stylist. Occassionally, I imagine I can grow up one day and become a writer, then I read Chabon and I recognize just how HIGH that hill can be. His dexterity with the English language borders on magical. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay is at once playful and soulful.

Listening to AAoK&C, I was reminded of Saul Bellow's ability to dance with language while also keeping the novel briskly centered on its well-paced story. Chabon's characters are boyantly alive, cinemagraphiclly painted, and infused a with dialogue that seems to require a high level of stereophonics (all enhanced by Colacci's amazing reading).

Even in comic books, good doesn't always win over evil, but it seems like with Chabon love still conquers all. A fantastic novel to view the 20th century through. Chabon expertly captured the colors, smells, and magic of New York. Anyway, Kavalier & Clay is a world I don't ever want to escape from.

128 people found this helpful

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  • Dave
  • 11-07-12

Escape From Reality is a Worthy Challenge

At Last! Because You Demanded It! An Unabridged Recording!

Ahem.

It's been several weeks since I finished listening to Michael Chabon's Pulitzer Prize-winning "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay," and I'm starting to think it's one of the best books I've ever read/heard. I read it when it first came out, and enjoyed it. But when the unabridged recording came out I knew I had to grab it, and give it a listen. I am so glad I did. And it was one of those listening experiences when you realize that a book is even better than you already thought it was.

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay's an incredible story about two Jewish kids prior to the U.S.'s involvement in WW II - one an immigrant, the other an American - who create a comic book hero that's a perfect and pure meditation on escapism: The Escapist! The novel itself is an epic story full of love, loss, friendship, creativity, and most of all: the human need for escapism.

Chabon's prose is spectacular, painting the setting and the characters better than a splash page. David Colacci's reading is no less spectacular, he was able to expertly give voice to all the characters - Sammy, Joe, Rosa, George Deasey, Tracy Bacon, and Thomas - they all sound exactly the way they should.

According to Chabon's story, Escapism is just as necessary for humans as love. It can be thrilling, sexy, healing, comforting, and transformative. It can make us better people.

Toward the end of the story, Sammy stares at another character's art work and says, “It makes me want to make something again. Something I can be just a little bit proud of.”

That about sums it all up for me. Listening to this book made me laugh, got me all choked up, and left me wanting to create art for as long as possible.

84 people found this helpful

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  • Chris Reich
  • 24-11-12

Superb, Original and BAM!

This is a wonderful story perfectly read. I would say no more but would fail to meet the Audible review requirements!

There is some real history here---read also The Ten Cent Plague---wrapped around the stories of two cousins. The stories are tragic but not overly depressing. The author somewhat gets us to a happy place by the end---not a perfect story book ending but that would demean some of the serious points this book makes. I love books that build compassion for people.

I have around 1500 audio books in my library. When I finish something really, really good, it can be insanely difficult to start, or rather get into, a new book. If you find yourself in that position, here you go! I had to listen to the first half hour a couple of times and then I was completely hooked.

Highly recommend.

Chris Reich

31 people found this helpful

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  • Stephanie
  • 08-10-18

Don't get the fuss

this is supposedly a New York Times bestseller, and one of the best books of the decade. But I just don't get it. It is predictable and shallow. Throw in a 2D gay character for pathos. A father of 12 years leaves his son because his son's genetic parent, who abandoned him, returns? Weak characters, an almost non-existent story line, and plenty of deux ex machina moments. I don't get it.

8 people found this helpful

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  • M. Spencer
  • 05-12-12

Well Written, But Not My Favorite

I really had no idea what The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay was about when I started listening. It had been on my "wish list" list for quite awhile and I just randomly decided to grab it. I can't help but think that a three star review seems awfully negative, but, really, I liked the novel; I just didn't love it.

Michael Chabon's work is undeniably well written. The characters are incredibly realistic, as is the setting. If I didn't know any better, I would believe that Chabon grew up in New York City in the 1940s. He must have done an incredible amount of research to pull off the setting so convincingly.

Perhaps because the audiobook was split up into three files, the novel felt to me like it had three acts. The first act was really an introduction to the characters and their business endeavors, the second act was largely a love story, and the third was the war and beyond. I could elaborate, but I'll refrain to avoid spoilers.

I really liked the first act. It was really interesting to see how Sammy and Joe take part in the birth of superhero comics, and The Escapist was frankly awesome. I also largely enjoyed the second act. I found Rosa to be interesting, quirky, and a wonderful compliment to the existing cast of characters.

My biggest issue was the third act. I just didn't enjoy it very much. I understand why Chabon chose for the story to go the way it did, but it started to wear on me and finishing the story became a bit of a slog, especially because the conclusion was both expected and inevitable, but not particularly satisfying.

Overall, I enjoyed the novel, especially the parts about The Escapist, but it wasn't my favorite and I wouldn't recommend it to just anyone. I think this one takes more of a patient reader than some of the novels that I tend to like.

38 people found this helpful

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  • Richard Delman
  • 18-07-12

Michael Chabon's magnum opus.

If you only read one book by Michael Chabon, this should be it. And, fortunately, David Colacci reads it, with his typical skill and verve. The book might be called over-written. Many of Chabon's books are like that. The story, however, is a remarkable one. Josef Kavalier escapes from Prague to eventually land in New York City during the early 1940s. He is welcomed by his cousin, Sam Klay, and the two young men rise to the very top of the world of comic books. Their hero, the Escapist, is a superman-like hero who is always escaping from Nazi-like traps and then returning to beat the Nazi-like guys to bloody pulps. The story of the personal lives of Kavalier and Klay is told in great detail. The book is extremely carefully researched. The ambience of New York City during this period is lovingly recreated by Chabon. There are a number of remarkable scenes. Kavalier has studied the great Houdini (whose real name was Erich Weiss) and has become an escape artist himself. He is also a magician and a clever entertainer. The book goes on perhaps too long, but if you are truly entertained, then Chabon and Colacci have done yeoman's work. The scenes of Kavalier's stretch in the Navy at a base in Antarctica are particularly memorable and heroic. Chabon's writing style is an acquired taste for many, but this is exactly the sort of thing for those who like this sort of thing.

41 people found this helpful

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  • Bethann McLaren
  • 06-12-13

I feel like I should have loved it, but...

Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

I might. I know for good reason a lot of people that are not me really love this book. I am a BA, MA English graduate and I feel slightly guilty for not enjoying it more than I did. It's certainly well-written and the characters well crafted. I personally, though, just never really fell in love with the book. I found myself anxious for the book to be over so I could start reading something else. There were bits and pieces that moved me and I will always remember, but I can't say that for the book as a whole.

31 people found this helpful

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  • Wayne
  • 05-12-15

Amazing indeed!!

Having started routinely writing reviews of books I listen to recently, I've been looking back through my 900+ book Audible library for some of the very best, and a few of the worst, books to which I have listened. I listened to The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay two years ago. It remains one of my favorite novels although it is not of my favorite mystery/thriller genre.

The novel is set in the US during the WWII time frame beginning inn 1939. Kavalier, recently arrived in the US from a portion of Europe controlled by Nazi Germany, is the cousin of Clay. Both are in their late teens and they live in the house of Cay's mother as the book begins.

In this wonderful and inspiring, and sometimes funny, historical fiction novel the two talented cousins invent the modern comic book.

The narration is perfect.

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay falls into the must-read category.

9 people found this helpful

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  • Ryan
  • 22-10-12

Favorite Chabon novel so far, despite “meh” ending

I’ve read a couple of Michael Chabon’s other books and have found him to be a writer I like a lot, but have never been totally enamored with. His prose reminds me of a certain type I sometimes meet at parties in the city: stylish, insightful, full of savoir faire, but trying just a little too hard to impress, and maybe not as original as he wants to be.

Still, if there was ever a novel that plays to an author’s descriptive flair and love for homage, it would be the Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. Through mannered but flip character study, Chabon hones in on the energies passing through pre-war New York City, as experienced by two young artists intent on making their mark in the dawning Golden Era of Comic Books, and later, the doldrums of 1950s suburbia and a stagnating industry. One of his protagonists, Joe Kavalier, is a young Jew from Czechoslovakia, trained in the arts of escape (think Harry Houdini), the other, Sammy Klayman, is a young Jew from Brooklyn, with aspirations of being a novelist. One worries about his family back in Europe, the other struggles with his sexuality, alternating between cautious acceptance and the socially-prescribed denial of the era. As with other Chabon novels, there are broad “Jewish” themes of exile, suffering, and redemption, which make an interesting subtext.

To me, the joy of this novel is the inventiveness with which Chabon has his heroes playing out their psyches and backstories on the nine-paneled page, as they struggle with guilt, a sense of identity, love, friendship, and failure. His ability to evoke the imagery of classic comics in prose is impressive, and reminds us of the ineffable power that visuals hold over both creator and devotee, even hampered by the stilted “sock! bam! pow!” conventions of the early days. A less graceful writer might have stamped out an empty nostalgia trip, but Chabon, in celebrating the earnest constructive spirit of young men in a new field of expression, crafts an ecstatic secret history of one rapidly evolving. It’s not often that words are worth a thousand pictures.

Well, for the first third of the book, anyway. Once the young duo achieves its meteoric rise and begins settling into comfortable lives of regular paychecks and predictable comforts, the novel begins to sag and its character studies to feel a little superficial and plodding (but impeccably written). Luckily, an engaging interlude involving a little known-theater of World War Two shakes things up for a while at the two-thirds mark (though it’s largely superfluous to the main story, and felt like Chabon just needed the writerly equivalent of an excuse to get out of the building and run around for a bit). After that, the story returns to 1950s suburbia, a dull marriage, a McCarthy-esque harassment of comic book writers, and a resolution that I found surprisingly banal. Does Chabon just not know how to end books well? I had a similar problem with the Yiddish Policemen’s Union.

Yet, as with that book, I liked the imagination and joyous construction of a place in time on display in the first half of The Amazing Adventures so much, I still think it’s worth your consideration. The audiobook might even be an improvement over the print version, with Joe and Sammy’s distinct accents brought to life, along with those of several other characters. Probably my favorite of Michael Chabon’s novels thus far.

22 people found this helpful

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  • Andrew
  • 30-04-20

a well written tedium, but still a tedium

I gave this book a SOLID effort. But in the end it was one of the few I walked away from, and I haven't looked back. Though clearly a talented writer, and the scenes were vividly described, the storyline proved tedious to me. I never felt hooked, I just continued because I had started it, and was waiting for it to become amazing. Until I just decided I was 2/3s of the way through and things started getting weird.
Didn't regret walking away from this one. Maybe it is someone else's cup of tea. Not mine.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Karen
  • 13-04-13

Entertaining and deeply moving

I love this book for the wonderful characters, richly-textured plot and the themes that develop in surprising ways throughout the book. The first time I read it I missed it terribly when it was over and became very cranky because I couldn't stand not having it in my life. I re-read it after 3 weeks. Since then, I've re-read parts of it numberless times and enjoy reading certain sections aloud to my friends. The audiobook is terrific. The variety of characters all sound authentic and it is in every way an experience that lives up to the quality of writing.

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  • Lesleyboyd
  • 22-07-15

Great story - both moving and funny

I didn't like the look of the title and it was only through reading reviews that I gave it a go. Really glad I did. It is a super story, unusual, moving and funny. I like longer books and especially those that don't repeat themselves but keep the pace flowing - this is one of those. Interesting the unabridged is cheaper than the shorter abridged! Give it a go i'm sure you won't be disappointed.

2 people found this helpful

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  • NutwoodWanderer
  • 05-07-20

Not as interesting as it should have been

After 3 and a half hours I gave up. There were some interesting parts but there was too much that was just filler and I was bored. The narration didn’t work for me either. There was no intrigue or subtlety. I found myself just listening to it as background noise rather than to the story itself.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Huttie at Hove
  • 23-07-19

it's a coherent long story & the narrator excels

lt's useful in illustrating the terrible experiences of Jewish families caught in the claws of Naziism, not just caught but unable to escape. That horror and, very importantly, how it came about (this book does not address the causes [the Book Thief does a better job of adressing how a leading modern educated society fell into Naziism] but looks at the awful effects) must never be forgotten. You experience how it seemed to one who had escaped to New York to watch in safety as the net closed on his immediate family. You also get an idea of what it may have felt like to be a survivor who lost... everyone.
It's a novel. It isn't too heavy or too dark. If you want Jewish humour, its there. If you want New York society during the 40s & 50s, this may be for you. Likewise if you want a better understanding of the comic book world, this might appeal. For me, l had difficulties with the characters & the prose is just too prolix. For me this book didnt work. Having said that, l did finish it

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  • mermaeve
  • 06-01-17

One of the best books I have ever read

Any additional comments?

The scope of the story the timeline and the craft going into the people who populate this book is amazing

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  • David
  • 14-09-16

great!

Loved the book when I read it, this is a great audio book too - narration is spot on. An amazing adventure indeed.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Trevell
  • 23-08-16

Why did I come so late to this?

What made the experience of listening to The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay the most enjoyable?

The whole place and time, New York 1939-53 comes fresh through this book,so near and yet so far and strange. It's a comic book evocation of a world we almost know.

What did you like best about this story?

The Prague Jews of the book are my family, and this might have been my world if my mother hadn't landed up in the UK instead of the US. But the awful parts of the book, the concentration camps and German occupation of Prague are both tragic and bearable.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Not possible to listen to this enormous book at one sitting, but such fun, so exciting to go from cliff-hanger to cliff -hanger.

Any additional comments?

I wouldn't have the time to sit and read it, and so invest it with my own voice, which was a small sorrow, given how important to me the book turned out to be. But given that, I absolutely adored David Colacci's reading and it's done now. This reading is an essential part of the book to me.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Brixtonian
  • 25-06-15

I miss them

Finding a life affirming story from the holocaust Chabon gives us characters to love and admire. The end of the book leaves you missing them and wanting to know what happens next. Not bad for a book this long. It keeps you hooked. Sometimes laughing out loud sometimes deeply sorrowful.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Dylan fan
  • 19-07-21

Buddy saga set in early American comics

The story of cousins Joe Kavalier and Sam Clayman takes us on a journey from their youth in the 1930s to the late 50s or early 60s.
Sam introduces his newly arrived cousin to the emerging world of comic book superheroes and sets them on a path that takes in escapology, antisemitism, the sharp edge of capitalism, war, attitudes to homosexuality, surrealism, the value of art and parenting.
I found myself wondering occasionally, what is this book about? Getting a little frustrated at the inconsequential sense given to much of the action even though it is describing significant moments in the lives of the 20th century and the characters in the story. I finished the story with a feeling that it was true to the times and the characters.

As Kornblum says "Only love can unpick the hardest lock"

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  • windy in wales
  • 27-06-21

Beautifully drawn story of cousins & comic books

Loved the humanity, wit and deeply drawn central characters, unevenly paced in sections of narrative

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  • Anonymous User
  • 24-02-21

What a way with words!

The story is terrific, the characters are wonderful, but what really stands out is Chabon's ability to capture the subtle beauty of a moment. I found myself getting frustrated at times when I wanted the story to progress faster, but quickly realised there's a lot of gold in the pauses here.