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The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon

September 7, 2015

51bho2K3nVLI don’t usually write DNF reviews, but this has got to be one of the best books I couldn’t get through.

In an alternate 1940, the U.S. government decides to allow European Jews to set up a temporary homeland in the panhandle of Alaska. One the one hand, four million of the six million Jews killed in our timeline escape the war and survive. On the other hand, on January 1, 2008, their lease will expire and they will be screwed yet again. (Israel doesn’t work out so well.)

The premise is absolutely brilliant and I wanted so much to read this book. But I can’t. Get. Through. The. Prose. It is so dense. Chabon describes every little thing. Reading The Yiddish Policemen’s Union is like trying to eat an entire chocolate flourless torte – a little bit is delightful. Chapter five, the backstory about Meyer Landsman’s relationship with his father and chess, would have made a great short story on its own. It’s also the point at which I gave up.

If you like alternate history and you can hack the prose, I recommend it. But if you can’t, don’t feel too bad.

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