Two men—William Lowell Kane and Abel Rosnovski—are born on the same day in 1906. However, their births could not be more different. Abel is a penniless orphan who is adopted by a poor Polish woodcutter’s family after his mother is found dying by the road. Kane is born into a life of privilege—the only son of a powerful Boston banking millionaire.
The book chronicles the parallel lives of the two men. Abel endures hardship, tragedy and oppression but manages to immigrate to America and build a successful hotel chain. Kane takes full advantage of his birthright and receives the finest education money can buy and becomes the leader of one of America’s oldest and most powerful banks—yet suffers a series of tragedies of his own that make him wary of trusting people.
Although their lives run parallel as they establish their careers, there are moments when their lives intersect. Eventually, they confront each other in a business situation that ends up affecting both their lives forever and leading to a game of one-upsmanship that affects not only their individual businesses but the U.S. financial community. As the conflict unfolds between them for the bulk of their adult lives, both are stunned to find that the biggest price ends up being paid by those they love the most.
I’m going to say this upfront: I didn’t like this book. I forced myself to finish reading it—hoping it might get better. It didn’t. Once I was 200 pages in, I felt I needed to just go ahead and slog on through to get credit for it as my K book in the A to Z Challenge. I had high hopes going in because I’d seen a few bloggers raving about Jeffrey Archer and his books—especially Kane & Abel. But whatever they might have seen in this book eluded me because it left me cold.
My first problem is with the writing style. I found the writing to be very choppy. The entire book is written in a kind of rat-a-tat-tat style that I found off-putting. The majority of the narration and dialogue simply exists to move the story along; there isn’t a lot of introspection, character development or extraneous description. I kept thinking: “This book seems so masculine. So abrupt and cold.” I don’t know if this is typical of Jeffrey Archer, but I don’t plan on finding out. Characters are introduced and then dispatched with cold abandon. Perhaps this is meant to mirror the characters themselves—both of whom are somewhat unlikable and ruthless—but I feel it doesn’t allow the reader to get a toehold into the story.
My next problem was with the amazing coincidences that keep bringing these two together. I guess I should have expected that from the very beginning when Archer chose to have them born on the same day. However, it began to annoy the heck out of me when they kept having run-ins that were really unbelievable. I mean, in all of the insanity of World War II, the fact that Abel (who mostly stays behind battle lines managing the food prep) ventures into “combat” exactly one time and manages to heroically save one person and it ends up being Kane was just too much for me. Another coincidence that drove me up the wall was when these men—who end up being the bitterest enemies bent on mutual destruction for almost the entire book—both have one person they love more than anyone in the world—their children. I’ll give you one guess who ends up falling in love. Yes….their children. Doesn’t that just beat all? I mean it isn’t like they live in a small town or anything where the choices are limited. No, they “find” each other in the podunk town of New York City. Oh, did I spoil the book for you? Well, you should have seen it coming a mile off—I know I did and I’m terrible at that kind of stuff.
But perhaps the biggest reason I didn’t like the book was that I didn’t like Kane or Abel. I just didn’t give a darn what happened to either one of them. Both are obsessed with money and power and have few “real” human relationships. So once you factor in unlikable characters, add in a writing style that didn’t grab me, and multiply by plot turns that seem unbelievably contrived, I ended up giving this book two stars (and that is being generous).
I don’t recommend this book at all. I didn’t enjoy it in the least. So, I guess I’ve defying Otto Preminger, who has a blurb on the back of my book that reads: “I defy anyone not to enjoy this book, which is one of the best novels I have ever read.” Well, Mr. Preminger: I didn’t enjoy it. What are you going to do about it? But I have to tell you, I seem to be alone in my assessment of this book from what I can tell. There are tons of 5 star reviews on Amazon, and the book jacket itself is just loaded with glowing praise. So, even though it wasn’t my type of book, it might still have merit for you. Anyone else out there read this book? Did you like it? If so, what did you like about it? I’m really curious because there are some great reviews of this book, and I didn’t get the appeal at all.
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