Thursday, January 23, 2014

Bookish Thoughts: The Final Solution by Michael Chabon

A boy with a parrot on his shoulder was walking along the railway tracks. ~ opening of The Final Solution



The Final Solution: A Story of Detection by Michael Chabon
Harper Perennial, 2004
Crime Fiction; 131 pgs

Set in a small town in England during 1944, a young boy with an African Gray parrot on his shoulder passes by an elderly retired detective turned beekeeper.  The 9 year old boy appears to be mute.  His bird is a mystery, spouting numbers in German, sometimes singing songs and making the occasional comment.  A boarder at the minister's house is found dead, the minister's son charged with the crime, and the parrot is missing.  The police are sure they have the right man, but turn to the old detective for help in finding the bird. As the story unfolds, it becomes clear there is quite a bit of interest in this bird and the possible secrets he may hold.  During war time, codes need cracking and military secrets are highly valued.  Although the former detective refuses to work the murder case, he does agree to find the missing bird, all the while doing just what he said he wouldn't do.

It took me a moment or two when I first began reading to step into the world Michael Chabon has put together for the reader in this short book, but once I did, I was quite taken with the story, the characters, and the writing.  There is a definite literary feel to the book; Chabon takes great care in his word use and in creating atmosphere and his characters.  The characters were well drawn, even when not much was said about them.  Although, it sometimes felt as if the characters and the events in the story were kept at a distance from the reader.  I was never in the story, as I often like to be.  I was merely an observer.

I came to care for the boy.  He had seen way more than a 9 year old boy should have, an orphan and refugee from the war.  There were the Malayan minister and his wife and their wayward son, each with their own burdens to carry.  And then the boarders at the minister's house, each one with their secrets and  possible and ambiguous motives.  

I confess I am not a Sherlock Holmes reader.  I have only read one of his books, Hound of Baskersville, and while it is one of my goals in life to read more of Arthur Conan Doyle's work,  I have yet to do so. And so, I utterly failed to see the connection between Michael Chabon's elderly retired detective and the famous Sherlock Holmes.  I would not have known about the subtle connection had I not read the author's interview at the end of the novel.  Looking back, however, it is more obvious to me--the references to the old man's deduction skills, the way the police deferred to him, his pipe, and other more minor details.  I probably should have made the connection, but I didn't.  I went into the book knowing nothing about it, really.

At times the story felt more academic than entertaining, however, I came to really enjoy it and the characters Chabon created.  I like the author's writing style, and continue to be curious about his other books.  I will read more by him in the future.

Rating: * (Good +)

You can learn more about Michael Chabon and her books on the author's website.

Source: I own a copy of this book.


© 2014, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

20 comments:

  1. I'm not a Sherlock person, and I've never read Chabon. I have a couple of his books on my shelves, and I started an audio once and couldn't get into it. All of that goes on the "someday" list I guess!

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    1. Sandy - My husband really liked Chabon's Kavalier and Clay, which I haven't yet read. I also have a book of essays he wrote still to read. I'm not sure why I decided to read this one now. I was walking by my shelf, saw that it was a slender book, and decided to give it a try. I'm glad I did.

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  2. One author I have never tried. I do like the quirky cover, but not sure this one would be for me.

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    1. Diane - I've been wanting to read something by him for years, and am glad I finally did.

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  3. It sounds like this was ultimately a good read for you. I'm glad you came to know and like the characters.

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    1. Tracy - It was! And I definitely want to read more by the author.

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  4. I'm kind of intimidated by Chabon because I've heard that his writing is rather academic. I've never read Sherlock Holmes either but my mom loves the character - I wonder if she'd like this book. By the way, I adore the cover!

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    1. Kathy - His writing falls into the literary fiction category, that's for sure. I intimidation is the reason I haven't yet read Kavalier and Clay. This one was easy to tackle though, especially because it was so short. :-)

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  5. I really like Chabon's non-fiction, but I haven't had much luck with his fiction. Maybe I should try this one someday, but I don't own it right now.

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    1. Kelly - I haven't tried his nonfiction yet, but I have a book of essays by him I've been wanting to read.

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  6. I've never been a big Holmes fan either though I keep meaning to read more. I've loved Laurie R. King's series about Holmes which tends to lean towards the academic too so this sounds like it's worth giving a try too. The fact that it's short does make it way less intimidating!

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    1. Katherine - I haven't yet read King's series, but I want to. I have a couple of her books in my TBR stacks. The size definitely does make it easier to pick up, especially when sampling an author for the first time.

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  7. Chabon really does have a way of creating an environment that just sucks you in.

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    1. Lisa - Yes, he does! I look forward to reading more by him.

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  8. I have a couple of Chabon's books, but haven't been inclined to pick one up. Not too sure if this one is for me either.

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    1. Joy - I do want to read more by him, but I know what you mean. I hope to try some of his essays next, I think.

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  9. I don't always like Michael Chabon's books but I think he's an amazing writer. I have read a few of Chabon's books and my husband has read several of them. He loved Kavalier and Clay, I liked it. One thing I've noticed about Chabon is his writing style changes... not all the time but I wouldn't always be able to tell a given book is his if I didn't already know it.
    This book sounds very good to me, especially since I am a Sherlock Holmes fan although I've watched more of his stories than read them. I'm definitely going to get a copy of this book to read. I really enjoyed your post!

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    1. Amy - I think you would like this one. To be honest, I can't help but wonder if I would have enjoyed it more had I caught the Holmes reference up front. Still, it was good and I am glad I read it.

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  10. Chabon is one of those authors that I keep wanting to read.

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