Kate's Queen City Notes

Blundering through Cincinnati, laughing all the way

100 Books by 40: KANE AND ABEL

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Book: Kane and Abel
Author: Jeffrey Archer
Published: 1979

Passing 10 hours of time can be done in many more pleasant ways than reading this book, like reading most of the other books further up in this list. Putting Jack Kerouac close to this title makes me seriously doubt The BBC’s understanding of American Literature. Let’s hope the end of this list was put together by a summer intern. And really, this conjecture seems reasonable considering The Princess Diaries is next on my reading list.

The book follows the lives of two successful men, Kane and Abel, naturally. One man is born into luxury, the other poverty. Due to an unfortunate turn of events, the characters feud for most of their lives.

The feud would have been considerably more interesting if Kane had dimensions rather than a dimension. William Kane always makes the right decisions. He is a successful banker. When Kane is shot in the face in WWII, all the scars heal, and he escapes permanent disfigurement. Of course he does. His wife is as beautiful at fifty-four as she was at twenty. Of course she is. Their children and beautiful and geniuses. Of course they are. See how tiresome this is? Now consider one thousand pages of it.

Partially due to the one dimension of William Kane, the foreshadowing could have only been more ham-fisted if the author provided a book summary at the end of every chapter. The plot was as predictable as the plot of an American rom-com. To round out this list of shame, the Biblical reference to Cain and Able fails to apply in significant ways.

Abel is developed further, but only slightly. The standard hard-working, successful immigrant story is trotted out. He occasionally makes poor choices, which make him slightly more interesting. Good stories never start off with, “I drank a nice herbal tea and went to bed early.”

Here’s the thing. Mark Twain didn’t try to write novels about Brits… set in England… a place he did not live. Jeffrey Archer is British. He’s lived in England his entire life. Here’s a theory. Perhaps the characters fall flat because these American archetypes are so tired to me. The archetypes succeed with foreigners because they reinforce their misconceptions of opportunity in America.

Are you an American? DO NOT READ THIS BOOK. If you want a easy summer read about immigrants, for god’s sake, pick-up The Godfather instead.

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