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The Yiddish Policemen's Union

3.68  ·  Rating Details  ·  47,509 Ratings  ·  5,604 Reviews
For sixty years, Jewish refugees and their descendants have prospered in the Federal District of Sitka, a "temporary" safe haven created in the wake of revelations of the Holocaust and the shocking 1948 collapse of the fledgling state of Israel. Proud, grateful, and longing to be American, the Jews of the Sitka District have created their own little world in the Alaskan pa ...more
Hardcover, First Edition, 414 pages
Published May 1st 2007 by HarperCollins
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Edan
Dec 14, 2008 Edan rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
You know that fashion rule where, before you leave the house, you're supposed to quickly turn to a mirror and then take off the first accessory that catches your eye? Well, I feel like Chabon should have done that with his prose, which is sometimes so ridiculously overwritten and boastful that it ruined an otherwise pretty interesting story.

With some writers, I want them to put on another accessory or two--please, would some bangle bracelets kill you?--but with Chabon I'm like, Dude, before you
...more
Anne
Jun 03, 2007 Anne rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: those who "weary of ganefs and prophets, guns and sacrifies, the infinite gangster weight of God"
"I don't care what is written," Meyer Landsman says. "I don't care what supposedly got promised to some sandal-wearing idiot whose claim to fame is that he was ready to cut his own son's throat for the sake of a hare-brained idea. I don't care about red heifers and patriarchs and locusts. A bunch of old bones in the sand. My homeland is in my hat. It's in my ex-wife's tote bag."

The Yiddish Policeman's Union is one of those rare, rare novels of ideas that is also character-driven, and the people
...more
Megha
Feb 19, 2012 Megha rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviews

When I think of The Yiddish Policemen's Union, I can picture a complacent Chabon frequently patting his own back while writing this book. If he can come up with three ornamental ways to portray one thing, he includes all three of them in the book. He seems mighty pleased with his writing and probably believes in sharing his beautiful mind with everyone. He will leave you sitting on the edge of your seat with suspense, to furnish a leisurely description of the setting before moving on. Every litt
...more
Richard Derus
Sep 19, 2013 Richard Derus rated it really liked it
Rating: 4.75* of five

The Book Report: For sixty years, Jewish refugees and their descendants have prospered in the Federal District of Sitka, a "temporary" safe haven created in the wake of revelations of the Holocaust and the shocking 1948 collapse of the fledgling state of Israel. Proud, grateful, and longing to be American, the Jews of the Sitka District have created their own little world in the Alaskan panhandle, a vibrant, gritty, soulful, and complex frontier city that moves to the music
...more
Lena
Mar 17, 2009 Lena rated it liked it
Recommended to Lena by: Moonrat
Shelves: fiction
When I first heard about this novel, I found its premise too fascinating to resist: it's a noir-inspired murder mystery set in an alternate universe in which refugees from the failed state of Israel are living in a section of Alaska temporarily loaned to them by the US government. At the beginning of Chabon's novel, their lease on this land is about to expire, signs of the messiah's imminent arrival are accumulating, and a dead man has inconveniently turned up in the fleabag hotel of broken down ...more
Manny
Aug 12, 2009 Manny rated it really liked it
My father's family is Polish-Jewish. My paternal grandmother was fluent in Yiddish, and whenever I see my parents they talk incessantly about Israeli politics. I must have read at least half of Isaac Bashevis Singer at one time or another. Also, I'm a chess player. I even knew the chess problem in question, and had read Nabokov's explanation in Speak, Memory of his thought processes as he constructed it.

So how would it be possible for me not to love this book? But my reasons for loving it are s
...more
Kersplebedeb
Jun 20, 2008 Kersplebedeb rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: people interested in Jewish culture and speculative fiction.
Imagine a crazy world in which, following the Holocaust, Jewish survivors languished in DP camps in Europe, were often still barred or discouraged from immigrating to the various "democracies", and found themselves pushed into emigrating to the Middle East where, through a variety of historical coincidences, they founded a new society based on dispossessing the indigenous Arabs and acting as imperialism's pit bulls in the region.

That's the crazy world we do live in.

In many ways, Michael Chabon's
...more
Cassy
1. Chess
2. Police investigations
3. Judaism (Yiddish, red cows, those little hats)
4. Alaska

I don’t know much about any of these topics. And honestly, only the last one piques my interest. Which meant from page one, it was going to be an uphill battle for Chabon.

And he lost the battle. I mean he was slaughtered on that hill.

Now that I have finished the book, I have negative interest in items 1 to 3. I am still curious about Alaska. Yet once it was used in the set-up, the cold tundra was tossed a
...more
Sandi
I picked up a copy of “The Yiddish Policemen’s Union” by Michael Chabon purely out of curiosity. This novel was nominated for, and won, the prestigious Hugo Award. The Hugo Award is for outstanding science fiction and I have never seen “The Yiddish Policemen’s Union” on the science fiction/fantasy bookshelves in any bookstore. It’s only been in the mainstream fiction section. Now that I’ve read it, I still don’t understand how it won the Hugo. True, it is an alternate history; but it’s a socio-p ...more
Chloe
Jan 24, 2009 Chloe rated it it was amazing
This is a book that I didn't want to read. Once I actually acquired a copy it sat mouldering on my shelves for over a year before I got to it. Having only read Kavalier & Clay and having been only mildly whelmed by it, it didn't call to me at all. Then, madness of madnesses, it was not only nominated for, but won the Hugo Award, even when stacked up against such brilliant scifi writers as Ian McDonald and Charles Stross. Upset doesn't begin to describe my reaction. How dare this dabbler in g ...more
Deidra
Oct 18, 2007 Deidra rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: noir fans who aren't expecting much
Had a pretty lengthy review, which was deleted when I made the mistake of changing the shelf. Yeah, I don't get it either.

Long story short: I still don't get why Michael Chabon is supposed to be one of the great writers of the 21st century. "Wonder Boys" was an enjoyable read. Nothing life-changing, but smart, fast, and chock full of quirky characters.

"Kavalier & Clay"....not so good. I am a fan of the comics industry, and I have to say the beginning describing it's birth had me riveted. A
...more
notgettingenough
Jan 03, 2010 notgettingenough rated it it was amazing
Then again. Again. Again. I wake up this morning and see that even now, despite everything, not one vote for this review.

Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. What the fucking hell do I have to do to get a vote for this review. Just one fucking vote, so I can put the fucking thing to bed. Obviously I need a new plan....a cunning plan. Hmmm....

---------------------------------------------------------------

Then again, again. I'm still trying to say just how good this book is. So, I bet somebody the other day. H
...more
Jason Pettus
Oct 21, 2009 Jason Pettus rated it it was amazing
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com:]. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted here illegally.)

Is Michael Chabon possibly our nation's greatest living writer? Oh, wait, I already know the answer to that rhetorical question -- yes, yes he is. And that's because, more than almost anyone else working today, Chabon has the ability to elegantly enfold the elements of literature most revered by acad
...more
Melki
Mar 07, 2012 Melki rated it really liked it
Shelves: mystery, fiction, noir
The corpse with the extra hole in his head may turn out to be the least of Detective Meyer Landsman's problems. His ex-wife is now his boss (professionally, this time around) and she's just handed him a tall stack of file folders full of cold cases she wants him to solve.
A dark Alaska winter is creeping in and Landsman is sinking deeper into a shady mess that reeks of conspiracy and long kept secrets.

There's no denying it...Chabon plays well with words; crafting sentences of such loveliness, yo
...more
Clouds

Christmas 2010: I realised that I had got stuck in a rut. I was re-reading old favourites again and again, waiting for a few trusted authors to release new works. Something had to be done.

On the spur of the moment I set myself a challenge, to read every book to have won the Locus Sci-Fi award. That’s 35 books, 6 of which I’d previously read, leaving 29 titles by 14 authors who were new to me.

While working through this reading list I got married, went on my honeymoon, switched career and became
...more
Alex Telander
Sep 16, 2010 Alex Telander rated it it was amazing
THE YIDDISH POLICEMEN’S UNION BY MICHAEL CHABON: Michael Chabon is a writer that many other writers are envious of: he’s young, he’s brilliant, and his books will undoubtedly survive long after his is gone. Pulitzer Prize for The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay aside, Chabon’s writing seems almost effortless, but is pure craft and magic. Unlike John Irving, who plots out the complete story beforehand, and then meticulously crafts each sentence and paragraph to be perfect (which is why he ...more
Dana Stabenow
Oct 11, 2008 Dana Stabenow rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I wanted to be a good reader, I wanted to give it a good chance and not pick nits because it wasn't written by an Alaskan. But I just. couldn't. trudge. through the prose. So, yet again, I feel out of step with everyone I know, who all loved the book and demanded I read it. Sigh.
Michael
Many people seem to enjoy Michael Chabon’s books so I was pleased when I finally had a reason to read The Yiddish Policemen’s Union. In the dark Alaskan winter in the city of Sitka; Detective Meyer Landsman’s ex-wife has just become his boss and has handing him a huge stack of old cold cases that she wants him to solve. While Landsman life may feel like its already hit rock bottom, he’s only just discovering the mess that he’s in; a mess that will lead to a conspiracy.

This alternative verson of
...more
Arnie
Jun 15, 2013 Arnie rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviews
Inventive, creative etc. Most of the writing style is top notch but sometimes overblown. I particularly liked the conversation with his ex-wife when she's introduced in the book as his new boss. Instead of giving the Jews a temporary homeland in Alaska, I would have preferred it more if they made part of Germany the Jewish homeland.
Will Byrnes
Oct 05, 2008 Will Byrnes rated it liked it
What if Israel had not come into existence in 1948 and another solution had been found, namely the USA ceding a portion of coastal Alaska for a temporary Jewish state? Now add to that a noir crime yarn set in this fictional state. What’s not to like?

Oy! This is a very slow-moving detective yarn, so slow in fact that I contemplated not finishing it. Chabon concentrates on giving family and cultural historical details in this alternate reality yarn. That becomes too much, particularly as the forwa
...more
Jan-Maat
It is probably my own fault that I was disappointed by this book. I heard a review of it many years ago on the radio and hunted up and down the shelves of bookshops until years later I found a paperback copy.

In my imagination I was sure that this book would be the hard-boiled love child of Isaac Babel and Raymond Chandler, witty, insightful and with its collar turned up against the rain. The title promised an array of pleasures. The slog of police union politics conducted in Yiddish, a hint of
...more
Emma
Oct 28, 2007 Emma rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: fans of speculative fiction and/or Michael Chabon
Jews, Alaska, chess, and murder: usually these subjects don’t have much in common. That's until you read Michael Chabon’s new novel “The Yiddish Policeman’s Union” where these elements come together to create the core of this quirky noir story.

Chabon’s novel is based on an interesting conceit: What if Jews had not been able to settle in Israel after World War II and, instead, were granted temporary residency on the Alaskan panhandle?

The original plan was set into motion around 1939 by Harold Ic
...more
Jamie Collins
I love Chabon's prose, but I can't read it for more than an hour at a stretch because it's exhausting. His writing is very sensual; he wants you to taste and smell and visualize every scene. There are no throwaway, transitory sentences and no wasted opportunities for a vivid metaphor. Normally I don't have the patience for that kind of florid writing and admittedly it could be distracting sometimes. I was often pulled out of the story when I paused to admire the turn of a phrase. I can certainly ...more
Helen
What? WHAT??? I never reviewed this?

Man, can this cat WRITE. I bought this copy with the distractingly beautiful cover at my local library sale, and devoured the entire book over a 36-hour period.

The dialogue is laugh-out-loud, snort-your-coffee-up-through-your-nose hilarious, and the plot is so ridiculously complex and brilliant that you want to get down on your knees to thank whatever God you believe in that He produces authors like this. Chabon has an incredible ear for linguistic detail, a
...more
Alan
Jun 05, 2008 Alan rated it it was amazing
On one level, this book is a standard detective story, with nods to noir film and at least one name-check for Raymond Chandler. The protagonist is a hard-drinking policeman who cracks wise and has trouble with dames (well, at least one dame), and takes an enormous amount of physical abuse in the course of performing his duties... duties which he often defines more broadly than his supervisors really expect. Sound familiar?

On another level, it's a science fiction novel, taking for its setting a
...more
Sesana
I read and loved The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay. It broke my heart, which can be a good thing in a book. The Yiddish Policemen's Union is a quite different book. Instead of historical fiction, it's an alternate history. In this timeline, a part of Alaska was given over to Jewish immigration just before World War II. Sixty years later, that land will revert back to the American government and the state of Alaska, leaving the residents to scatter.

But the alternate history, fascinat
...more
Kara
May 20, 2015 Kara rated it really liked it
Author Michael Chabon is a brilliant wordsmith, one of the most masterful that I have read. His descriptions are so illustrative, colorful and over the top, it almost seems as if he is mocking the mystery detective genre in such a clever and uncanny way it makes for its own layered literary element. Take for example his description of the protagonist, homicide detective in Alaska's Federal District of Sitka:

"[Landsman] has the memory of a convict, the balls of a fireman, and the eyesight of a h
...more
Ben Babcock
Michael Chabon owns his writing style in a way that few authors have the guts to do. His style breathes life into his characters and their surroundings. When reading a Michael Chabon book, you don't just feel like you're there with the characters; you feel like you're experiencing it as the characters. In an era when the novel is being dominated by straightforward, cinematic narratives, Chabon's excelling at creating chilling and compelling tales.

The book is steeped in Judaism (what did you expe
...more
Andrea
Jun 12, 2011 Andrea rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sci-fi, my-collection
I started this book three times before I read it fully, it isnt easy to read at first, but once I orientated myself to the setting, culture and people, I was hooked and read it cover to cover through one night. Being Jewish myself and of Eastern Europena extraction, I do wonder how those not understanding Yiddish and the particular depressive self-deprecation of the protagonists could fully appreciate the brilliance of this novel.
Terribly funny in some parts, terribly sad in many others, it was
...more
Michael
Jul 08, 2008 Michael rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2008
Michael Chabon’s The Yiddish Policemen’s Union came highly recommended, critically acclaimed and on the shortlist for this year’s Hugo Award.

And that said, I don’t see what all the buzz is about. The story is an alternate history and it’s got an intriguing premise. But I just had a hard time getting into or caring about the story or characters for any sustained period of time. There were flashes where the book was bordering on brilliance, but there was a lot in between that just never grabbed me
...more
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Michael Chabon (b. 1963) is an acclaimed and bestselling author whose works include the Pulitzer Prize–winning novel The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay (2000). Chabon achieved literary fame at age twenty-four with his first novel, The Mysteries of Pittsburgh (1988), which was a major critical and commercial success. He then published Wonder Boys (1995), another bestseller, which was mad ...more
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“Every generation loses the Messiah it has failed to deserve.” 56 likes
“It never takes longer than a few minutes, when they get together, for everyone to revert to the state of nature, like a party marooned by a shipwreck. That's what a family is. Also the storm at sea, the ship, and the unknown shore. And the hats and the whiskey stills that you make out of bamboo and coconuts. And the fire that you light to keep away the beasts.” 37 likes
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