Jeffrey Archer was one of the first books that I picked up when I realised my love for reading. I am unable to recall the title of the book, but the story was a riveting tale of love, loss, jealousy and deceit. I was enthralled by Archer’s way with words and how he could keep me engaged with every twist and turn. This was 15 years ago.
Cut to present. After a week of some dry and slow reading (here’s looking at you Bill Bryson and Virgina Woolf) I noticed Kane and Abel sitting on my bookshelf under the To-Be-Read section. Reminiscing about my early reading days and looking for an interesting and fun read, I was immediately drawn to the book and soon settled into a Jeffrey Archer paperback after 15 years. The first 100-150 pages were great. It was interesting to follow the lives of two boys born under different circumstances and in different parts of the world. William Kane Lowell, a Boston Banker and Abel Rosnovski, the illegitimate son of a Polish baron are the two protagonists who have parallel but contrasting stories from boyhood; both prove themselves to be extraordinary and sympathetic, with a passion for success. Archer, through his vivid descriptions and elaborate story line leaves nothing to imagination. This quality drew me in when I was a novice reader, but it frustrated the hell out of me this time.
It is highly likely that i’ll get a lot of flak for this review, but I am so exhausted from reading this load of crap.
Like I mentioned, I used to read a lot of Jeffrey Archer when I was young and had the appetite for stories surpassing generations and rivalries. Ken Follett and to some extent Sidney Sheldon too fall under this category, but after reading Kane and Abel I have zero patience for this kind of storytelling.
It seems that Archer missed the memo which said “brevity is the soul of wit” or in simple terms, “K.I.S.S” (Keep It Simple, Stupid). This book just would not finish. At page 246, which is roughly the half-way mark, is when the two protagonists, Kane and Abel, finally meet. Everything before that was just a character build-up and had very little relevance to the rest of the story. At 535 pages this book is unnecessarily long and verbose, not to mention highly predictable. I spent 4 days reading a book which was about two alpha males fighting it out and throwing around a few million dollars just to oust the other. Can you imagine? Like we don’t see that enough in real life already. The plot was weak and full of coincidences – implausible and frequent coincidences! The ending was a cliche, one that could put our Bollywood movies to shame. I can bet all the books on my bookshelf that anyone could see that ending coming. The writing was too descriptive for my liking. I tested a theory – I ended up skimming and skipping sections in the last 200 pages and I don’t think I missed much.
I blame no one else but myself for picking this book. It was written in 1979 and even though Pan Macmillan refers to it as a ‘classic novel’ on their website, I beg to differ. Calling Kane and Abel a classic or a masterpiece is dissing other books that are worthy of this tag. Kane and Abel is not a classic. It is a piece of shoddy literature which was great in its time, but times have changed and it is time we let this book go.
But who am I to suggest what one should or should not read? I know that a lot of people love/loved Kane and Abel and perhaps other titles by Archer. I was one of them too. What I have realised is that over the years, I have outgrown these kind of books. I still love a good fiction, mixed with drama and romance and all the messy human emotions. But thanks to years of extensive reading I know I can find that in a book by Ann Patchett, Adichie, Kristin Hannah, Murakami. Authors who push the boundaries and don’t use tried and tested formulas to re-package the same material.
It’s safe to say that I am never picking up another Jeffrey Archer. With this book I have lost faith in Goodreads. With a rating of 4+ stars and more than 100 lists recommending this book as a must-read, I can’t help but wonder if I am being too harsh in my rating of 2 stars.
P.S – I wrote this review over 2 days and my feelings about this book haven’t changed. So there it is. I am one of the odd one out. I did not like this book. For me, Jeffrey Archer equals Chetan Bhagat.