Gentlemen of the Road

Gentlemen of the Road is the third novel in my historical fiction reading challenge. And honestly, I don’t know how I feel about it.

Gentlemen of the Road by Michael Chabon tells the tale of how two Jewish bandits, the Frankish Zelikman and the Abyssinian Amram, become tangled in the internal politics of the Khazars after they are caught out during a scam.

On the whole, the novel is a wonderfully written historical yarn. It is, perhaps, an example of what all historical adventure novels aspire to be. As a Michael Chabon novel, however, Gentlemen of the Road leaves much to be desired.

While the characterization of Amram and Zelikman are well executed, one is hard pressed to see how, exactly, they are unique. Isn’t it almost a given that all protagonists in this genre are rogues and bandits with similar characteristics? And isn’t this type of plot not uncommon?

(In fact, I’m glad I’m not reading T.C. Boyle’s Water Music for this challenge because, honestly, I remember that book having a very similar feel. The plots are completely different, but still. . .)

The novel is great and enjoyable. But I can’t help finding the novel dull and boring at the same time. Being a Michael Chabon novel, I expect something more.

I have some familiarity with Michael Chabon’s work. I have read The Mysteries of Pittsburgh and The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay and enjoyed both books immensely. They have a depth and power that, honestly, Gentlemen of the Road simply lacks.

It is almost as if Chabon ticked off the genre requirements without adding anything really new or deep to the mix.

Which is a shame even if the novel is highly readable.

So, where does this leave me on my historical fiction challenge score sheet? Three books in, I’ll have to say things are 1-1-1.

Next time, The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton.





Posted on August 1, 2014, in Books and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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