Book info

The Final Solution (2005)

The Final Solution (2005)
Rating
3.29 of 5 Votes: 3
ISBN
0060777109 (ISBN13: 9780060777104)
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English
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publisher
harper perennial
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The Final Solution (2005)
The Final Solution (2005)

About book: Last summer I decided that I was going to read all of the Sherlock Holmes stories. I went to the library and found an extremely large and musty old book that contained every one of the short stories and novels. I spent the next week reading them one by one. As I got closer to the end of the book I found that I was pacing myself so that I wouldn't read them too quickly. I wanted to make the book last, and obviously Doyle wasn't going to be writing any new stories. Doyle is long since gone and Holmes was retired to the country to tend bees. Then I came upon this book by Michael Chabon. Clearly Chabon is a devoted fan of Sherlock Holmes. This story, taking place at the end of a famous life and after thirty years of retirement, takes great pains to recreate this character as an old man with both veracity and respect. The sleuth has lived anonymously in this town for decades and the author respects that need for privacy so much that he never actually uses the name Sherlock Holmes. Fans of Sherlock Holmes will enjoy this book very much. Reading the story is like meeting an old friend. You're somewhat shocked at how he's aged, but it feels natural and authentic. There is also an interesting mystery. The mystery isn't as tightly woven, or the solution as surprising, as you would find in the best of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's work, but it moves along nicely and there is a very poignant heart to the story. For those who have not read Sherlock Holmes this book is still very much worth reading. Even if you're not familiar with the character, and therefore don't get all of the little "tip of the cap" references to the Doyle stories, you will still find him to be an interesting and compelling character. More to the point, you will find this story to be both interesting and compelling. It takes place in England during 1944 and centers around a little Jewish boy who was smuggled out of Germany to avoid the gas chamber. His father was a noted psychiatrist and his family escaped the death camps as long as they did because a Nazi official needed treatment for a sleep disorder. But, at some point the family feared that it would suffer the fate of their friends and family. The boy, along with several other Jewish children, were smuggled out of Germany with the help of Anglican priests and settled around the English countryside.The boy brings with him a very unusual pet who speaks for him now that the trauma of his life has left him mute. One day the boy and his pet meet Holmes by chance, and the story begins. The mystery that this child and his pet hold within them is the essence of an innocent child trying to make horror into something that he can process. Adults with Machiavellian schemes move in and out of the child's life. He's being cared for by a well-meaning couple, but they are so absorbed in their own disappointed lives that they can't really offer him the assistance or protection that he needs. Sherlock Holmes comes out of retirement to aid the boy and struggles with the realities of what time has taken from him. Physically and mentally he is no longer able to make the same leaps that he once made so easily without exerting great effort. The story unfolds quickly (the book is only 131 pages long) in a way that is very much in keeping with the tradition of Doyle's short stories. The subject matter is compelling and emotional. The writing is very well done. I highly recommend this book!

I’m downgrading this to a two and am tempted to give it the damning single star but for the fact that Chabon is such a master of cleverness and has such a huge vocabulary I have to admit some sliver of awe and respect. That’s the failing, too, of this book for me. I looked hard and could find no soul. It read like an exercise, with a few interesting results (an admirable point-of-view-of-the-parrot passage, an attempt to embody the mid-century Britishers’ mannered language and vocabulary). This edition has an interview with the author at the back in which he extols the virtues of the genre-pulp writers, as well as (or including) Conan Doyle, the model for this one. In theory I love that idea but in the end my problems with this book stem from 1). its excessive cleverness and ultra-self-conscious prose and 2). the limits of genre. As for the latter, I’ve found most of the other attempts to reclaim genre-writing equally unsatisfying—for instance Motherless Brooklyn. Both books seem the equivalent of listening to Winton Marsalis when you could be listening to Miles. What’s the point? Chabon perhaps brings an interesting postmodern sensibility in his prose style (zillion-dollar strings of colliding words), but the minuses that come hand in hand with the genre in the end take it down more than his obviously high IQ can lift it up (those minuses being cardboard characters, formula plot, lack of emotional depth, soullessness). How someone like Chandler (one of my heroes!) and other pulp/noir writers overcame those minuses was through a fresh and subversive writing style that was utterly unaware of its subversiveness (those over-the-top metaphors—I was so hungry you could see my spine through my stomach—!!), and through complicated and clever plots (usually, though The Big Sleep does happen to have a huge hole in the plot). The “mystery” of the Final Solution turns on a single revelation that is preceded by barely a clue and is clumsily handed to the reader at the exact two-thirds-of-the-way through point where enre writing prepares us to expect denouement. In the end neither my heart nor my brain were really engaged, though in the short moment, Chabon certainly glitters. While I’m ranting: When I finished this book with a feeling of having been cheated I did an estimation of word-count and came up with about 30,000. How does he get away with that?! No fair.
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Reviews
Carson
An unnamed 89-year old formerly famous super-detective has long retired to his bees and the countryside, far from London. A mute boy and his parrot, rambling off cryptic patterns of numbers, stumble into his life and call upon what's left of Sherlock Holmes to decipher the mystery that is about to unfold.While obviously a departure from the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle stories, this is exceptionally well written and wordsmithed; rarely have I read a work that has been crafted with words so exquisitely. The story is interesting and human; it trivializes many of the obsessions of man while taking our hero in search of a final solution. An enjoyable read, and a must for any Holmes fan.
notgettingenough
I started this just before lunch and finished while having a cup of tea at Cacao's later in the afternoon. So, yes, it's short. And enjoyable. I'm just trying to give myself room to manouevre with the 3 stars. I gave The Yiddish Policeman's Union 5 stars, I have a couple of others of his on the shelf and they might just need something in between. The whole stars thing is like bears eating porridge, hard to get just right.I don't know if anybody else would agree with me that this is a children's book. People don't seem to have tagged it such.PS: My mother read this and said the trouble with it is that the author fancies himself clever. Exactly my thoughts. I've read several Chabons now and they all run that risk, but he gets away with it in the others. This one leaves you feeling a bit like saying 'smug wanker'. Of course, certain people who haven't read the book, would say, if they had, that it is the Sherlock Holmsian character who is, aptly, a smug wanker, not the author. I beg to differ. In advance, before anybody sets forth this argument.
Lormac
This is an elegantly crafted story with marvelous writing. It is just a novella, and you Goodreaders will be able to knock this one off in a night, but the language is so lovely, you may want to savor it a little.It is a mystery on a couple of levels - a parrot has learned something, the parrot disappears, someone is murdered, someone decides to solve the case. I cannot explain more but each of those four statements sets out a separate mystery. The title gives the readers clues to two of the mysteries, and if you get the illustrated version (are they all illustrated?) be sure to examine the first picture for clues to one of these mysteries.One last comment: One of the chapters is told from the point of view of the parrot, and it is worth reading this book just for that chapter.SLIGHT SPOILER: This book was actually published in 2004, but it is particularly timely given several recent re-imaginings on TV and in film of a certain literary figure. This story is really another re-imagining of the same character from a completely different perspective.
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