Michael Chabon - The Yiddish Policemen's Union: A Novel

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The Yiddish Policemen's Union Review

Nov 4, 2007
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Characters, Plot, Humor

Cons:Complex Jewish customs that one must be familiar with

The Bottom Line: Great Book but not his best. Good interesting read but not an afternoon read.


From Pulitzer Prize-winning author Michael Chabon comes a tale of intrigue, suspense, and… Jewish policemen???
If that sounds a little strange to you then we already agree on something. I started this book only because of the genius Chabon exhibited in his 2000 novel The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. Don’t be fooled: Chabon is a master of prose, and let’s just say he hasn’t lost his touch.
The Yiddish Policemen’s Union is another supreme achievement for Chabon. Though it probably won’t win him another Pulitzer Prize, this novel is an extreme joy to read.
The plot focuses around Meyer Landsman, a homicide detective working in The Federal District of Sitka, a small portion of the Alaskan frontier that a large number of Jews were sent to after the Holocaust.
Landsman is at the end of his rope. Just to show you how bad it’s gotten for him his ex-wife is currently his boss and he’s living out of a fleabag motel. Oh and by the way he’s also a raving alcoholic. But Landsman’s life suddenly changes when a former chess prodigy is found dead right under his nose.
I won’t ruin the surprise but you can count on the fact that nothing is what it seems in the Alaskan wilderness.
Chabon sprinkles his mystery who-dunit with a hint of romance and humor that adds to the spiciness of the recipe. When I was reading this I often thought of Chabon as a world-class chef. Each supporting character is another essential ingredient, important enough that in their absence, the meal would be sub-par.
Let it be said that this is not a simple afternoon read. Like any good novelist, Chabon continually challenges his reader. He does this especially with his extensive use of Yiddish and other vocabulary used in a traditional Jewish manner. If there were a drawback to this novel I would certainly say it lies in the confusion one might encounter if they don’t have at least a basic knowledge of Jewish culture.
Overall, Chabon has created another great piece of work in The Yiddish Policemen’s Union. I wouldn’t say that it’s as good as The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. But to be fair, they are completely different novels. I would say that Chabon takes more risks with this novel, most of which work out well in the end. Until Chabon comes out with another great work of fiction, take the time and indulge yourself with the works of one of the best fiction writers of his generation.


Recommend this product? Yes

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