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March 17, 2005

Review: The Final Solution

The Final Solution

I was entirely unprepared for Michael Chabon's latest novel, which is surprising, given that I'm pretty sure I read the review a few months ago.

The Final Solution of the title refers to two things, and it's the latter of these that is the more surprising. The first, of course, is that infamous Final Solution -- which threads as a sort of undercurrent in the book. You know it's there, you know it's part of the mystery that's going on, but it's the part of the mystery that remains hidden, the large and terrible part of the iceberg you never see.

The surprising Final Solution is that of Sherlock Holmes -- for this is a pastiche of Holmesian novels; this is his last case. In this book, Holmes is extremely aged, now that it's early in the 1940s. England is at war with Germany, of course, and the Americans have only just begun to enter the war. That Holmes is engaged in rescuing a parrot for a young, German, Jewish boy who has lost his powers of speech and is moderately dumbstruck by something. He is an orphan, but he has as a companion this enormous grey African parrot, who rattles off sequences of numbers.

This is a good little book, not up to par with The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, but that's a very high bar indeed. Recommended, especially for Ray Bradbury and Sherlock Holmes fans. The book had the feel of Bradbury, in its brevity and its subject matter (that is, a young boy who doesn't speak, with a parrot). A nice treat until Chabon serves up another, more sizable opus.

Posted by Brett Douville at March 17, 2005 11:33 PM