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This biography of Michael Chabon's 'grandfather' is a stunning piece of whimsy, the tale of a cranky, old genius that grips and surprises throughout. It is a long, meandering novel masquerading as a memoir, flitting around time and place so that the chapters don't follow consecutively and it's only gradually that we build up a picture of the narrator's family history via the stories told to him by his grandfather.
Despite the fragmented narrative and some aspects considered to be fictional truth, there's real heart and soul here which lifts this novel beyond merely the clever construction, giving it a haunting, poignant undertone.
For me the book is less about the grandfather, but the beautiful, damaged woman with whom he falls in love with. Profoundly affected by her experiences during the Second World War, the narrator's grandmother tells stories to shore up her own sense of self and to hold herself together in the wake of trauma.
While at times it can seem tedious, the author's writing carries it through, moving effortlessly from rambunctious humour to distressing scenes. It is a meditation on families and what constitutes a family when it's not based on blood, histories and accurate memories. A big-hearted and beautifully-written novel.
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Chabon's beautiful phasing, humorously realised reflective characters, and boy's own adventure stories are a delight