Review published on February 10, 2017.
This is the latest book by American novelist Michael Chabon, winner of the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. I also enjoyed his 1995 novel The Wonder Boys, which was made into a very entertaining film starring Michael Douglas. So, I was hoping for great things from this book and I was not disappointed. It purports to be the life story of a terminally ill retired rocket scientist, as told to his grandson Mike Chabon. But, as the author says in the introduction, he makes no claim as to the historical accuracy of the account or of relevance to his own family history. This is, however, a fascinating tale of a twentieth century life. It’s not told chronologically, but instead jumps from the old man’s memories of his Second World War experiences in Germany trying to track down V2 inventor Werner von Braun to his later life in a Florida retirement village. In between, we hear, amongst other things, of his short time in prison in the 1950s and his fascination with the American and Russian space programmes. There are so many interesting themes running through the whole book, including Mike’s grandfather’s obsession with von Braun and the fact that the whole American space programme was based on research conducted in Nazi Germany. There is also the mystery of the origins of Mike’s French grandmother, the truth of which is perhaps revealed during the book. The book is about the impossibility of really knowing the truth about anyone else and the secrets all families keep hidden. Chabon’s style is captivating throughout, combining humour with serious insights into the human condition. His grandfather (I don’t think we are ever told his name) emerges as a fully rounded person with many faults and foibles while still being sympathetic. It’s a beautifully written book, generous and a true delight to read. I only hope my review does it justice.
Sue Glynn 5/5
Moonglow by Michael Chabon
Fourth Estate 9780007548910 hbk Jan 2017
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