'The world, like the Tower of Babel or my grandmother's deck of cards, was made out of stories, and it was always on the verge of collapse.'
Moonglow unfolds as a deathbed confession. An old man, his tongue loosened by powerful painkillers, his memory stirred by the imminence of death, tells stories to his grandson, uncovering bits and pieces of a history long buried. Why did he try to strangle a former business partner with a telephone cord? What was he thinking when he and a buddy set explosives on a bridge in Washington, DC? What did he feel while he hunted down Wernher von Braun in Germany? And what did he see in the young girl he met in Baltimore after returning home from the war?
From the Jewish slums of prewar Philadelphia to the invasion of Germany, from a Florida retirement village to the penal utopia of a New York prison, from the heyday of the space programme to the twilight of the American Century, Moonglow collapses an era into a single life and a lifetime into a single week.
"Chabon is a spectacular writer, a language magician." ( Guardian)
"It's as if Michael Chabon has pulled joy from the air and squeezed it into the shape of words." ( LA Times Book Review)
"The natural exuberance of Chabon's writing is matched by dazzling wit." ( Sunday Telegraph)
"A 'star' not in the current sense of cheap celebrity, but in the old sense of brightly shining hope. He is a writer not only of rare skill and wit but of self-evident and immensely appealing generosity." ( Washington Post)
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Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Suswati on 09-11-17
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.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Sean on 23-03-18
Very well written...just can’t get over the ‘disclaimer’
This is a good book, no doubt about it. The narrator is good too. This being said there were two things that stopped me from enjoying it, unlike Chabon’s other books. The first is the ‘disclaimer’; Chabon writes something along the lines of ‘this story is true except where the truth was less interesting’. This book blurs the line between fact and fantasy, and so it’s difficult to really take it seriously. The stories of his grandfather, grandmother, uncle etc are really profound and significant but I can’t help thinking I was being manipulated as they could have been wild fabrications! The second issue is that the author and the narrator allow the no nonsense, matter of fact attitude of the protagonist, being the grandfather, to affect the character and dialogue of every individual in the book. In fact, every character appears as manifestation of the grandfather, himself and no one has their own identity. I don’t imagine this was intentional but if it were, and we were dealing with the memory of a dying man and not hearing the story through him it might make sense, but this story is told by Chabon who is not a tough taking, no nonsense sort by any means. The book has no nuance, it’s a masculine and measured, never deviating from a method of story telling that becomes pretty taxing nearing the middle of the book.