The Yiddish Policemen’s Union

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I’m bad at challenges. I joined several book challenges at the beginning of the year, and then have been very, very lax in keeping up with them. There are all kinds of food events that I’d like to participate in, but about the only one that I can routinely keep up with is Weekend Herb Blogging, but there are only 3 more days of school left. So, starting officially Monday, I will be a blogging fool. I will post daily, join food events, and even post some of my reading challenges. Heck, I might even post twice a day. You will become sick of me, I promise. Oh wait…Monday is a holiday. Well…okay…starting Tuesday. No, wait, I have no plans for Memorial Day, so, back to starting Monday! Can you tell I’m dawdling? I’m procrastinating, because I believe if you can’t say something nice about something, don’t say anything at all (I really don’t believe that, I talk bad about people and things all the time), but I’m about to write a review of a book that I didn’t like. It pains me. It really does. I’ve read another book by this author, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, which I loved. But I can’t put it off forever, so without further ado, my review of The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon for the Notable Books Challenge.

I am sad to say that I did not enjoy reading this book. The setting of Sitka, Alaska, populated with Jews who have been granted a temporary safe have after the Holocaust, is interesting. The writing is excellent, with some memorable lines, but the book is peppered with yiddish words and expressions. Liberally peppered. So much so, that I feel that half the time I didn’t know what was going on. About a quarter of the way through the book, I checked the back for a glossary. Don’t laugh, I remember struggling through A Clockwork Orange, taking notes on what words might possibly mean, only to turn the final page of the story and find a glossary! There is no glossary in the back of this book, however. In addition to the Yiddish words, the characters have unusual names (or at least for me), like Mendel Shpilman, Ester-Malke, and Berko Shemets. These names just do not stick in my head. It was so bad, that at the end of the book, when the murderer was revealed, I thought “who?” Now, to be fair, I read this a little bit each night, after a long, tiring day at work. Maybe if I had read it over the summer, with less distractions and more time to read in one sitting, I might have felt differently. If this sounds intriguing to you, give it a try, the writing is certainly good, but if you are wanting a light read, you might want to chose a different book.

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  1. says

    I agree, names that are foreign to us , not a language we ever studied, and not that we grew up with, are really hard to remember. And if a book is stuffed with them, then “who did what again?” seems to be how it goes. In CT, there were lots of Jewish people, so we heard these names, accents, words, etc (my best childhood friend was Jewish, too). It did make me giggle when they’d be going to Lon Gisland to visit family. Hope your next book suits you better.

  2. says

    This actually sounds interesting to me because I adore the Yiddish language. I do not understand a word, I’m not Jewish but my husband’s family spoke Yiddish in the home so I would to read this.

    See it’s not so bad after all!

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