Kane & Abel by Jeffrey Archer
Published by St. Martin’s Paperbacks
From the publisher:
Born on the same day near the turn of the century on opposite sides of the world, both men are brought together by fate and the quest of a dream. These two men — ambitious, powerful, ruthless — are locked in a relentless struggle to build an empire, fuelled by their all-consuming hatred. Over 60 years and three generations, through war, marriage, fortune, and disaster, Kane and Abel battle for the success and triumph that only one man can have.
I chose to read this novel at the recommendation of one of my coworkers – it is his favorite book of all time, and when I have the opportunity to discuss books with non-online friends, I get excited. So even though Kane & Abel didn’t sound like my thing, I went for it. Surprisingly, I enjoyed the book a lot more than I was expecting to. It also provided for a new way for me to chat with this particular coworker – a person I didn’t even know was a reader before he recommended this book to me.
This book is more a case study on these two men and their individual lives and personalities than anything else. The reader is given an intimate look at both of them, from childhood up until both of their deaths. There are so many moments throughout each of their lives where it is clear that small decisions can have huge implications on a person’s future. Each of them had several fork in the road moments – times when had a different choice been made, so much might have turned out differently. It was interesting to me to read this aspect of the novel specifically, and relate it to my own life.
What was surprising to me about this novel is that it’s huge – almost 600 pages – yet it didn’t feel that way to me as I was reading it. There’s so much detail, so many events that happen throughout the book, that it just flows effortlessly and I never felt like I was bored or bogged down with these men and the minutiae of their lives. In fact, because I spent so much time with this novel, I find myself thinking about it often, even though it’s been quite a while since I finished it. For me, it was just one of those books that stick with you. And it made me want to read more chunksters!
While I enjoyed the experience of reading Kane & Abel quite a bit, it is far from a perfect book. Published in the 1970’s, it shows its age with the various stereotypes tossed throughout the book. Additionally, there is not one major female character of any significance. Kane and Abel’s wives would, I suppose, be the most prominent female characters but they serve merely as decoration to the men whose lives they orbit. And Archer does not treat his female characters with much respect as a whole. That was by far my biggest complaint about the book and did make me roll my eyes in disgust more than once. My other complaint is that I’m not sure I ever fully bought the rivalry between the two men – the passionate hatred they had for one another came across clearly, sure, but I’m not sure I buy the reason for it. Could just be me, though.
While there were a few things about it I didn’t love, overall I was sucked into this huge book and really enjoyed the time I spent with it. I’m not sure I’ll read more of Archer’s books, but he’s got a ton, so if you’re familiar with his work – should I read more of him? And if so, where should I go next?