Monday, March 31, 2014

I just didn't get it. . . a book review, . ."The Final Solution" by Michael Chabon

I normally like books about Holmes' life after retirement. I have read a few I really have enjoyed.
Sure, all of them are speculation, but who amongst us has not done some of that.
We have all pictured him in retirement in his cottage by the coast with this bee's.
And I like to imagine a younger person discovering an older Holmes and learning of the great detective and his history and methods.

"The Final Solution" did none of that for me.
I really didn't like the Holmes that was created in the book. Now it can be argued that it never says anywhere that it actually was Holmes, but most readers know that it is. This 'Holmes' left me understanding why he is alone and a mess.

Chabon's Holmes, for me, offered none of the characteristics I envision Holmes taking into his retirement.
He is cranky, decrepit and slovenly. Cranky I could maybe live with, but not the other two.

The narrative is way over written and, again, for me, has none of the cadence of a good Doyle short story.
Several reviewers I have read compare the style to Doyle's writing which I did not find to be the case.
After quoting one lengthy paragraph one reviewer writes; ". . what I love about that passage is the way that it reminds me of reading about Sherlock Holmes's apartment when I was a kid. It's is the same life, only everything is fifty years older."
But to actually read the paragraph you will find it has none of the brevity or descriptive clarity of Doyle.

To really get much out of this book one must already have a good understanding of the Holocaust or must be welling to do some research to understand the 'mystery' in the book. A book leaving us wanting to know or understand more is not in itself a bad thing.

But I found myself wanting to skip over parts because the description became to thick. Perhaps some would argue that it is I who is thick and not the book
But for me, the book did not flow well.

The mystery and the history I could accept, but it was way over written.

And good article on "The Final Solution" and Holocaust imagery can be found here.

Although I enjoyed the history, the mystery and the style left me wanting something else.


  1. Thanks for the review. After I had finished with the Canon in my youth, I started reading pastiche. This was during the Great Boom of the 70's. Over time, the quality of the books diminished and now I've pretty much stopped reading them. Like you, I've read several positive reviews of "The Final Solution" and I've debated picking it up. I've read Chabon's "The Yiddish Policeman's Union", an alternate universe noir where European Jews were given Alaska instead of Palestine to settle after WWII. It was well written, if the mystery was a bit obvious to noir fans (I'd recommend it). I still don't know if I'd pick up "The Final Solution", but now I'm in less of a hurry to do so.

    By the way, I've just gotten a new computer (the other was nine years old) and I'm learning my way around.

    1. The book was hard for me to read, but doesn't mean it would be for everyone.
      It didn't have the Holmesian characteristics I require in my Holmes.