Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Gentlemen of the Road

by Michael Chabon
New York: Ballantine Books, c2008, 2007.

Two swash-buckling Jews, Amram and Zelikman, travel in search of adventure - or perhaps adventure/trouble is in search of them - in the region of the Caspian Sea in the 10th century. I hesitate to say more, because the fun is in seeing how their story unfolds. I can just imagine Chabon unwrapping his story, a sort of homage to the old-fashioned adventure story but one that is delightfully unique. I seem to remember putting it on my ever-growing TBR list when it was brought up at a Readers' Advisory library workshop as a title that is particularly hard to categorize: Is it adventure? Historical fiction? Literary? Yes.

Though it is a fairly short novel (less than 200 pages), and I turned pages quickly, I never did have that moment where I was so engaged and involved that I practically forgot I was reading. Perhaps it was because it took me until halfway through to realize that this was set in a real place and time (Khazaria, 10th century). Perhaps it was because I had to have my dictionary out - not just because I wanted to learn the new words, but because I sometimes couldn't picture what was described without it. Perhaps I am just not the right reader in the right mood for this book. Gentlemen of the Road was a fun story that made me aware of a part of history I'd never known before, and while I may not be inclined to read this particular title again, I'm certainly intrigued enough to try the other Chabon titles on my TBR list sooner rather than later.

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